Saturday, July 11, 2015

Sea Glass Theology

While visiting friends on the coast of New Hampshire, my host introduced me to sea glass. Now why a Florida girl like me had failed to notice this treasure before is a mystery. Perhaps the abundance of gulf coast sea shells were enough to occupy me all those years of beach combing and playing on the shore. 

What is sea glass, you may ask?  It is pieces of broken bottles and dishes, tossed into the ocean or lost overboard, that, years-decades-centuries later, wash ashore. The broken pieces have been "tumbled" on the ocean floor, grinding and sanding away all the sharp edges until what's left is smooth, rounded and softer in color. There is also "beach glass" which can be found in rivers, tributaries and inlet waters. You can see the difference between a new piece of glass and one that has been tumbled over years . . .

Now that my eyes were open, my hunt for sea glass treasure began! Early each morning, when the tide was out, I combed the rocky shoreline for bits of colored glass. Frosty white, lavender, aqua, green, cobalt blue and brown, in varying shades, popped in the sandy mix of pebbles, sea weed, remains of sea creatures and the debris of human ones. This simple pleasure offered me what I crave and too often miss - beauty, wonder, joy, revelation and spiritual blessing. 

While I searched, my soul called forth hymns, scripture verses and songs buried deep within the sand of my being...
"The kingdom of heaven is like a buried treasure", "a man found a pearl of great price"... (Jesus)
"Riches I heed not, nor man's empty praise, Thou mine inheritance now and always..." (Be Thou My Vision)
"Seabird I have seen you fly above the pilings,
I have seen you wing your circles in the air, 
I will come and sit by you while he lies sleeping,
fold your fleet wings I have brought some dreams to share..." (Joni Mitchell)

It called forth wisdom from other cultures that I have found beneficial. Seeing hundreds of snails among the rocks, I called on snail "medicine" from Native  spirituality, to help me slow down, take my time, and be patient, which inspired me to crouch down on all fours, close to the ground, and pause. That view revealed a multitude of jeweled colors I would have missed standing 5 feet above the ground.  

As I continued this daily ritual, it dawned on me why sea glass had captured my attention, like delicate strands of sea grass that wrapped around my ankles.  What humankind tossed away as trash the Creator returned as treasure. What wasn't valued is now something of worth. What once was lost has now been found.  It's an eye catching example of the "potter's wheel" and "refiners fire" at work in the "baptismal" waters of an ocean. If it can happen with a broken bottle, it can happen in a human life. Sea glass "theology" vividly illustrates how great is the love of God who offers countless second chances, rebirth, renewal, redemption, resurrection. 

My collection of sea glass may become gifts of jewelry some day. For now it sits on my kitchen table in a Communion cup, where beauty, wonder, joy, revelation and 'in remembrance of Me' mingle together, reminding me of the One who creates all things new.

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