Finding God in all things, even beach glass

With three young children, I realize just how precious time is as I watch them growing before my eyes. When I have a spare moment to myself (which is rare these days!), one of my favorite ways to relax is by searching for beach glass. Over the years, I have amassed a large assortment of beach glass in colors ranging from cobalt blue to pink and even jet black from the shores of Lake Michigan. The crashing of the waves and the peace and solitude that the water provides, have become a place of prayer for me as I search for discarded beach treasures. There are two lessons that searching for beach glass has taught me about my faith:

Finding God in all things.

A friend of mine who has lived by the water for many years, once remarked that “it must be the luck of the Irish that you find beach glass all the time because I have lived here for 20 years and have never found anything!” I assured her that finding beach glass has less to do with luck and mostly being aware of the properties of the glass and knowing where to look.

Just because we do not find beach glass, does not mean that it is not there. We took a walk together and I explained to her a few things that I had learned through the years, such as the best time of the day to search for glass, the places where it washes up and even how to walk so that it can be spotted more easily. After we walked for 10 minutes or so, lo and behold, she found her first piece of glass!

When we collect certain items, our eye naturally picks out what it is that we look for. For example, if you collect elephant figures, in a store very often you will find them easily enough. If I went into the same store it is likely that my eyes would not spot the figure since I am not looking for it. My focus would not be attuned for a particular item and so would skip over it.

This can also be true of our relationship with God. St. Ignatius of Loyola urged his followers to find God “in all things,” and if we seek to find God in our daily lives, God will speak to us. But first we must attune our presence to him. God speaks, often in the silence of our hearts, but we are often so busy and distracted that we fail to see him.

Jesus says to us, “Seek and you will find” (Lk 11:9). Yet how often do we fail to seek Jesus and see his face in our lives? A good question to think about as you reflect upon what I have just written is the following question: How is Jesus speaking to me today?

We are uniquely made and loved by God.

When I go beach glass hunting with my children, I learn an important lesson. To my children, the most ordinary rock is beautiful. While I walk all over the beach, searching for “just” the right piece, my children will pick up and set down a huge assortment of pebbles and rocks. “Look Mama,” my 2-year-old will say, “this is a good one, this is beautiful.” I turn from what I overlooked to see cracks, patterns and crevices that my eye has overlooked.

I am often so intent on looking for something shiny and perfect that I miss the beauty of what is right in front of me. If we look with the eyes of God we find that there is nothing on earth that he has created that is ugly or does not have a purpose.

Each one of us is made in his image and likeness: beautiful, distinct and, yes, different. God says to each of us, “How beautiful you are, my darling. How beautiful you are!” (Song of Solomon 4:1). As you reflect on beauty and how you might look at the world with God’s eyes, ask yourself, who do I need to take a second look at today that my eyes might have discarded?

Stanz is director of the diocesan Department of New Evangelization. She is the author of “Developing Disciples of Christ” and co-author of “The Catechist’s Backpack.”