The summer of 1964, I was five years old, vacationing in Cape Cod, Massachusetts.
Dad picks up an empty conch shell larger than his own hand, and holds it up like treasured bounty–no cracks or chips. I expect he’ll put it down into his bucket but instead, he fastens the shell to his ear, like a telephone.
“Let me hear!” I say, reaching for the shell. He hands it to me.
“Hold it on your ear real tight,” he says. “You’ll hear the ocean.”
It’s true! I’m amazed! My brother reaches for it, and for a change, I want to share. I want him to hear it too.
(Excerpt from my memoir)
I’d been struck with delight by the sound of the ocean inside that shell.
Fast forward to just last month, April, 2018.
Walking barefoot on the clear, sunny morning along the coastline of Amelia Island, Florida, I found myself all alone that morning. As delighted as I was to have a few hours to myself while my husband was in meetings with his company, my thoughts and prayers were preoccupied with a friend back home. Right before leaving for the beach, she and I had met for lunch. She shared with me some serious physical, emotional, marital and spiritual challenges. Any one of them could’ve led to disaster. I’d left her with a promise of prayer: “I’ll be storming heaven for you.”
As my bare feet gripped the wet sand, and as I listened to the surf pound wave after wave, I shot up prayer after prayer for my friend. It was almost painful. Was I becoming preoccupied with her problems? I wanted to release them and to release myself from the burden I felt for her. After some time, I finished one last intercessory thought (like Ephesians 1:18): “Oh, God, may she be enlightened…and come to know Your exceedingly great power toward her, as she trusts in You…” My eyes shifted from the pounding surf to the clear, sapphire sky, then back down to my footprints in the sand. And right in front of me, mere feet away, lay the most beautiful, glistening conch shell, all by itself: its damp casing sparkled in the brilliant sunshine.
The shell appeared as if set there by someone.
And without an earthly doubt in my mind, I knew God, the Shell-maker, intended it for me. Just to show me He’d heard my prayers. Do you ever take such signs so personally? Times when you know…that you know…that you know.
It was all the confirmation I needed. Feeling almost giddy, I nearly lifted the shell in victorious praise, right there on the beach.
For us humans, getting caught up in a powerful ocean wave is downright scary! Imagine the journey one single shell makes from sea to shore. Contemplate the shear chaos:
For years, maybe, a shell undergoes hardening and transformation before being delivered and cast across the sand. Had God instructed Mother Nature to send her, following the deep churning, wave after wave? I accept the gift as a sign. God has been there with me, too. Lesson after lesson unfolding in my life, and I’m convinced, in the life of my friend.
Did this sign mean God would answer my intercessory prayers?
Absolutely! Did I know how, when, or what might happen in the meantime? No way. His ways are so much higher than mine. But the question of “if” God would answer was settled. And the mere presence of the intricate shell at the moment I concluded my meditation was astounding to my faith in the power of prayer. This time, it was as if God held the seashell up to His own ear when He heard my
I wrapped the shell like a newborn baby and carried it back home to gift to my friend. I included a note describing how I’d found it.
Two days later, after returning home, I attended an already scheduled reunion of friends. In walked the one I’d been praying for. She sat right next to me. There was a new freedom in her countenance, a clearness to her eyes. She quietly reported to me, she’d been experiencing an unfathomable joy….and a new respect emanating from her husband, one she couldn’t quite explain.
I hadn’t yet told her about the prayers, or about the seashell. But the remarkable difference in her demeanor since our last lunch together was unquestionable.
“He’s just so different,” she said. “He’s become my encourager, and I can’t quite explain it, but we are getting along so well.”
Imagine. From chaos to peace. From infancy to maturity, how much churning do our souls undergo? To God be the glory, great things He has done!