“That’s above my pay grade.”—common retort to a difficult question


“I live a small but valuable life.”—movie line


“O Lord, my heart is not lifted up, my eyes are not raised too high; I do not occupy myself with things too great and too marvelous for me. But I have calmed and quieted my soul….”—Psalm 131:1, 2a


On a recent vacation to the Gulf, Susan and I walked the beach every day looking for shells. They were abundant, and we came home with plenty of beautiful souvenirs.


I noticed something as we strolled the shoreline. With a few exceptions, it was the bigger shells that were smashed and broken or had a gaping hole near the hinge. The little ones, which were much more numerous, were more likely to be intact even after being pounded by the relentless waves. Small was more sustainable than large.


Had nature commented on our current economic mess and given a lesson on life in general? Aren’t arrogance and its sibling greed the roots of our malaise, a lack of humility and accountability to others the ultimate source of our crisis? Isn’t it when we think too highly of ourselves that we are likely to be brought down low?


Better to live below the radar, not seek too much for ourselves, live within our means, and admit that we do not know everything. Jesus spent time talking about such things rather than the hot-button issues that seem to define “Christian” for the culture today. He warned about the snares of power and money, invited his disciples to take the lowest place at a feast and to be meek and poor in spirit. He told us that the last would be first and the first, last.


It occurs to me he spent a good bit of time walking along a seashore. Maybe he also noticed the lessons from the shells.


© 2008 Tom Cheatham