Inspired by her daughter’s project of collecting and decorating seashells, Tina Mayeux reflects on the process of how God transforms our souls to be like His.
The magnificence of nature can provide unlimited sources for reflection on God’s goodness and tender love toward us. On a recent beach trip, one of my daughters and I walked along the seashore searching for interesting shells, rocks, and pieces of driftwood. She wanted to collect these treasures so that she could take them home to paint and decorate them in hopes of creating art to sell to willing friends.
Many of our finds were broken and otherwise not intact, yet she was certain she could transform them into beautiful creations that would become valuable treasures with her artistic touch.
Her project reminded me of how God can take the often-fragmented raw materials of our lives and transform us into holy and pure images of Himself if we allow him to. Even after we have fallen into our weakness or sin, as we all do from time to time, He gently picks us up off of the shore like those odd, assorted items that my daughter and I found, brushes the sand off of us, and begins his transformative and restorative work on us.
Through an often lengthy and sometimes painful process, we are cleaned, buffed, and transfigured into God’s image and hopefully, by our life’s end, restored to the original beauty and innocence of our Baptism so that we can be ready to enter Heaven where we will experience eternal joy and happiness.
The process of becoming Christlike is a lifelong experience. We may be tempted to think that we will reach a place where we will reach perfection and no longer struggle with temptation and sin here on earth; however, even the saints themselves contended with these things. St. Anthony the Great was known to have said, “Expect temptation until your last breath.” Rather than to let these words discourage us, we should allow them to motivate and inspire us to continue to work diligently on our spiritual lives throughout our journey here on earth, knowing that the reward for this work will be Heaven.
We should remember that if we are faithful and allow Him to, Jesus does much of the work for us, carefully forming and transforming us through the people and experiences of our lives. Our job is to fulfill our particular vocation as perfectly as possible and to accept willingly the sufferings that inevitably come in life. Like St. Therese, who embraced the “Little Way” of sanctification, we can simply ask Jesus to help us learn who He wants us to be and ask His help in becoming that person.
Unlike those various shells and pieces of wood collected on the beach, we, ourselves, have free will and must cooperate with God’s grace and His work if we are to become the people he intends us to be. We can do this by humbly submitting to the Church’s teachings and availing ourselves often of the Sacraments, especially Confession and the Holy Eucharist. Belonging to a Church community is also important for our spiritual growth and development. We are sculpted and formed through our relationships with the people in our lives. As Proverbs instructs us, “Iron is sharpened by iron; one person sharpens another.”
We encounter God’s abundant love and mercy through our experiences with the people we love and who love and care for us. The Holy Spirit brings us together in community as we live and worship together, and together are transformed into God’s holy people. We learn about genuine love and charity through living and working with all kinds of people – those we like and those we have a difficult time with. We learn to forgive others and to be forgiven through these relationships, and to discover God’s great love and mercy through them.
My daughter’s treasures included pieces of broken shells of many colors, shapes, and textures. Just so, we come to God very diverse and unique souls, no one like the others, and God has a mission and plan for each of us that is unique to us and can be completed by no one else. Everyone is important in the family of God; everyone is necessary.
But as it is, there are many parts, yet one body. The eye cannot say to the hand, "I do not need you," nor again the head to the feet, "I do not need you.” (1 Corinthians 12:20-21)
In our diversity, we are all loved and cherished by God, even if we are broken and seem to be far from Him. Jesus doesn’t discard us because we have been through difficulties and troubled waters. Instead, he offers us a chance to become new and whole again through his restorative power. Like those rocks and shells, He gathers us up into His arms and promises us new life with Him. Which areas of our lives do we need to surrender to God for restoration and renewal?
Copyright 2021 Christina Mayeux
Images (from top): Pixabay (2018); Canva Pro