Our long summer holidays have just ended and several days saw us sun-creamed up and heading for the beach. Besides splashing in the water, one of the favourite beach activities for my daughter and I is to comb the beach for beautiful shells. I had a keen eye for those shells that had survived the rocks and the relentless waves and were still intact. My daughter, on the other hand was delighting in shells of all types-whether they were whole or not. She noticed the glorious pink of one fragment, the pearly beauty of another. She saw how the broken shapes resembled flowers or hearts or some other ingenious form.

My first reaction was to school her in proper beach combing technique. After all, no one wants broken shells- those less than perfect offerings. Only the flawless, the whole, the faultless would do. But I stopped myself just in time to sit back and marvel at her ability to find beauty in the broken, to see the perfection in the scrap.

And isn’t this something we should be cultivating in ourselves? How often we relegate people to that same scrap heap because they are less than perfect. How often do we refuse to see God’s handiwork in those people who have been battered and bruised by the waves of life?

That handful of beautiful scrap shells will forever be a reminder to me to look for the gold in people, in situations, and yes, even in shells on the beach.

There is beauty in everything, no matter what you have been through or experienced and often that beauty is hidden under a shell of perfection and is only released to shine out when we have been broken.