Oh God, I want to tell you something
Listen to me please…
Oh God, I am grateful for all the things
You’ve done in me
As the rivers flow,
I know that You will finish what You start…
                                   Excerpt from God Use Me by Andy Landis

My husband and I had somehow managed to stumble our way through “the year of our sorrow” with the loss of our twins and it was time for me to renew my teaching contract in the United Arab Emirates for another three years. 

But as he and I walked along the beach that day, words leaped out of us and took on a dangerous direction as I fumed in tears.

“You can’t even tell how stressed you are but everyone else can see it,” he bellowed.

“I am not weak,” I countered.

“Of course not, but you never took a break after what happened. You are an emotional wreck and it’s affecting our marriage,” he said wearily. “You need a break.”

“You mean that you need a break,” I accused. “So what? I should give up? Is that what you are saying?”

“Not at all. Taking a break is not ‘giving up’ or ‘running away.’ It’s just putting yourself first.  It’s been a difficult year for both of us, and I think you need this time away from here. Since everything happened, you haven’t been yourself. You need to become strong again.” He let out a long sigh of frustration. “I wish you’d understand. You are so stubborn.”

But I wasn’t ready to give in yet.

Our words slashed back and forth as the sun began to set and the waves got stronger, as if mirroring our emotions. Angry, accusing words surfaced from a year fraught with the strain of dealing with the loss of our twin daughters and becoming more distant from each other. Now,  our marriage could even be at risk. But as the darkness began to fall, we finally  decided that it was best for me not to renew my teaching contract. I realized this would serve as a separation for us as well since my husband would remain in the United Arab Emirates teaching at the college and I would go to the United States to be  with family for awhile. We didn’t know for how long.

Opening the door to our 4 x 4, I noticed that I was clutching a large, ugly shell in my fist, something I must have latched onto during our feverish discussion. It wasn’t much to look at with dark grains of wet sand clinging to it. But I decided to keep it as a memento of our decision that day.

Much later, after my return to the United Arab Emirates and a renewed attempt at our marriage, I found the shell on one of my book shelves. I picked it up and remembered the painful decision that day on the beach.   It was nice to have that memento. The grains of sand still clung to it but in the six months I had been gone, the sand had lightened and blended together into fine white powder that slipped away from the shell each time I picked it up or set it down again. I remembered back to the dark, rough grains I felt coming home from the beach that day. When I look back, it is as if God were trying to tell me these dark specks were all the areas of pain God wanted to heal in me. The fine blend of white sand were the healed areas that dropped away so easily from the shell.

When I gazed at the shell later, I found it looked like an ear. The outside was strong but porous. The inside was delicately carved with a white splotch in the center, which spread outward like the inner ear. Perhaps God had waited to reveal the special subtleties of the shell—so seemingly ordinary—until I was ready to understand His gift.

With the shell in my hand, a memory came to me. It was the day the doctor told me the second twin daughter had died. Right afterward, I was listening to a song and began to sing the words out loud, the tears dripping down my face. “Oh God, Listen to me please…” I was reaching out to God and thanking Him for caring for me so deeply over all the ups and downs of my lengthy hospital stay and I think I was acknowledging faith that He would get me through the pain of losing Celestia and Noor.

 Seeing the grains fall away, I felt God speak again to my soul. He seemed to say, I listened to you that day in the hospital and I honored your faith. This is my proof that I was also speaking to you that day on the beach. In the midst of your argument, I asked you to listen to me. When you sensitized yourself to my presence, you heard my voice quietly giving you permission to take the break you needed to heal.  I may have spoken the words through your husband but they were my words.  Remember how much peace you felt? That was because I gave you my peace.

I gently placed the shell down in its basket. Our conversation had finished. The words came to me, “He who has ears, let him hear.” I later looked up the scripture and found it in Matthew 11:15  

The unremarkable shell took on a new beauty. God used such a simple object to speak to me, something just along the beach that I didn’t even know I picked up.  Since then that beautiful ear-shaped shell has always reminded me that God wants an intimate, one-on-one relationship with me. He loves to give  precious gifts to remember when and how He speaks, just like He left the rainbow after the flood.  

God still speaks to His children today. I know because He spoke to me.

Do you have a story in which God has made His presence known to you? I would love to read about  it in the comments!  I think he makes His presence known more frequently than we realize.  The challenge is to keep our our ears (and hearts) open to hear Him speak.

Gift from the Sea
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