Running on the beach can be invigorating. Crashing waves distract you, ocean breezes cool you, fresh air fills your lungs. Or, it can be humbling, especially when the sand is the squishy kind that holds onto each foot and threatens to sink you up to your knees.
Such it was when my friend Melissa and I took an early morning run back in March. We were in Kitty Hawk, for a weekend marriage retreat. Our husbands and most of the others were still snoozing in the beach house. Even with the quicksand-like conditions we plowed ahead. Melissa seemed less affected by the marshy surface than I was. Still, it was good. I’ll take that to running on city sidewalks any day.
We talked about God-things, and the time and surroundings was a blessing. Real friends are a precious gift from God and connected friendships don’t happen by coincidence. God puts certain people in our lives for a purpose. Recognize those friendships in your life and weave yourself into them, so that you can encourage, support and inspire each other to live for Him! This takes time and cultivation. Rarely do these kind of friendships happen overnight, but they are well worth the investment!
I Thessalonians 5:10-11 says:
He died for us so that, whether we are awake or asleep, we may live together with Him. Therefore, encourage one another and build each other up, just as in fact you are doing.”
On the way back, an aggressive wave chased us into sprint mode, but we still got our feet wet. As the wave retreated, we noticed two big shells laying in the sand. Conchs, we thought at the time. We snatched them up and ran on. (I have since learned they may be Whelk Shells, possibly Knobbed Whelks. If there is a shell expert out there, and I’m mistaken, please correct me!)
A few minutes later, Melissa stopped and picked up something very odd. It dangled from her hand in a swirly, snake-y kind of way. If it was a snake, then she clearly had abilities I didn’t know about.
Neither one of us knew what it was, but we decided to keep it. Two steps later, I found my own. We continued our run, floundering on with our biological wonders, each of us with a big shell in one hand and a dangling mystery in the other.
When we got to the beach house, everyone was up and the smell of breakfast was tantalizing. We had sort of gotten lost on the way back and the return had taken longer than it should have. My husband, Brian, unveiled the mystery of our find through an internet search. Our snake-like treasures were actually whelk egg cases. A whelk is a predatory marine snail who attaches its egg cases to the bottom of the ocean. Rough storms can sever the connection that holds them in place and the waves take over from there, sweeping the egg cases to the beach where the eggs or (if hatched) tiny whelks inside dry out and die in the sun.
I recently did some more research on that, since I wanted to write a post. It was late at night when I started diving into the world of whelks and egg cases and I was already tired. My eyes were heavy, but at first it was interesting. Some sources said the cases are connected to the sand by strands, other entries said whelks attach the cases to rocks and others just said they anchor the end of the case in the ocean floor. There was even more detail, but by then my head was spinning. Maybe they do it all. I guess I was looking for one definitive answer. When I looked at my watch and noticed it was after midnight, and that I was sacrificing precious sleep time for egg cases, I realized I had taken that search too far. This is, after all, a post, not a term paper.
Surprisingly, I didn’t have weird dreams. I originally wanted more answers because I can’t help but see the correlation between whelk egg cases and the parable of the man who built his house on the sand. Know the story? The storms came along and the house fell with a crash. The other man Jesus spoke of built on rock, giving his house a strong foundation that stood against the storms. (Read it in Matthew 7:24-27!)
I believe that God illustrates Himself and His truths in nature if we look with eyes of faithful curiosity.
Romans 1:20 says, “For since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities – His eternal power and divine nature – have been clearly seen, being understood by what has been made, so that men are without excuse.”
The wonders of our natural world are on display so that we can believe in a magnificently imaginative Creator; who wants to teach us about Himself in multiple ways.
So, what life lesson from the Word do we see portrayed in the whelk egg case? Life rooted in the things of the world can shift and change with the whims of man, and will not stand the storms that buffet. Careers, financial security, self-empowerment and social standards are like quicksand that will suck you in and give you no support when upheaval comes.
Life built on solid faith in Jesus Christ is what it takes to withstand the turbulent waves, which often come without warning: cancer, other illnesses, financial hardship, divorce, failure and trauma, to name a few.
Build your life on the Rock of Jesus Christ. He is the Way, the Truth, the Life. Seek to learn what those things are in His Holy Word, by forming friendships with other believers and by listening to Godly teachers. Open your eyes to see His hand in the detail and wonder of our natural world.
Where to start? Read the book of John. Take advantage of technology (wow, did I write that??) and listen to PodCasts by awesome teachers of God’s Word. Louie Giglio (from Passion City Church in Atlanta) and Gus Agostino (from Family Life Baptist in Aylett, VA) are two of my favorite speakers.
Here’s a picture of the whelk shell and egg case I took home. The egg case was originally quite springy. Over a few days it dried out. The tiny, dried whelks are visible inside the medallion shaped cases. This made for a great home school lesson, too! Oh, by the way, I took this picture in my back yard. I don’t have beach front property, though; just a sandbox!