So as some people who follow this blog may be aware I have been on a bit of a social media detox this weather. I have been trying to remove myself as much as I can from using Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and indeed WordPress. I am allowing myself to make one post per day. Unfortunately this means that when I post something to Instagram it generally directs the post onto Facebook and Twitter as well, so I am incredibly limited in what I can post! I don’t think this is any bad thing as it means that all these intensely heated debates which are raging all over social media can be avoided.
As part of this detox I am also trying to detox my body as well. I am drinking larger quantities of water, getting out into the fresh air more and continuing to try and build myself up once more. I suppose the hope for this is that by detoxing myself of these external stimuli then my internal headspace will be clearer and my faith life will be reinvigorated. Sort of like doing a spring clean and opening up the windows and doors of the house to allow the fresh spring air to permeate every part of the house. Or as Saint John Paul II would say, “Open wide the doors to Christ. Do not be afraid!”
Today I had arranged to make a phone call with a dear friend of mine. I decided to kill two birds with one stone and take a walk while making the phone call. I don’t know about you but it’s tricky enough to maintain a conversation over the phone while you’re out walking. My arm kept getting tired holding up the phone and I had to keep switching arms and so forth. It was bothersome! So in go the earphones and handsfree and I could chat away to my heart’s content. This for me is a strange experience. I can’t imagine how it looks to the passerby on the street or how loud I am speaking without being aware of everyone else being able to hear! But we managed the chat all the same. As usual our conversations turn to deep and meaningful matters which was again a strange experience because it feels like your walking along discussing these matters out loud to a voice in your head…a bit like prayer.
As we finished our chat I had reached the turning point in my walk and was making the return home. To do this I had to walk the length of Newcastle strand out as far as Murlough bay. It’s a walk I have done many times over the years and is one I absolutely love. It is a very interesting stretch of beach to walk alone as well. You can just take your time, or walk as quickly as you like, stop and look around or sit and simply be. My experience of my walk this time involved stopping every so often as I managed to find a seashell which I thought quite pretty. As I stopped to collect the shell and place it in my pocket for bringing home a tidal wave of memories came flooding back to me of when I was a child and our family would holiday in Donegal. Now, I don’t know about you but when I was a child if I found a seashell I thought of as particularly pretty I would absolutely have to bring it home to show my mammy or daddy because who has ever seen a shell quite like this one!? Nobody has! No shell has ever existed that is as absolutely gorgeous as this one! This was my thinking today when I would find the occasional shell on the beach as I walked along. One of my pockets was soon overflowing with big and small shells and a little stone as well. This all got me to thinking…
Isn’t it amazing to think when we walk along the beach and we find these tiny shells which seem so small, fragile and insignificant that there is indeed a reason for their existence? This tiny little shell once housed a little crab. Said crab moved out of the shell when he was bigger and moved into a bigger one. The shell’s reason for being was not known until a certain point in time. For the crab to remove itself from the small shell must have been a difficult enough experience but if it is to grow and live its life to the full this was a change, a metamorphosis almost, which had to take place. This little shell which is left on the beach is just sitting there, seemingly useless now. Yet along comes a young man who looks upon it and thinks to himself, “I have never seen such a beautiful shell! It’s absolutely perfect.” The young man then takes the time to appreciate the rough and smooth areas of the shell, its sharp edges and blunt sides, its colours and shapes. It is magnificent.
Now imagine for a second your own life…in fact since I cannot presume anything about your life I can only speak for my own and perhaps there will be something here you can identify with. My life at times can appear small, fragile and insignificant. Yet my head and my heart both tell me there is a reason for my existence. Perhaps I am shelter for someone who will move onto bigger and better things some day. Yet for the duration of time in which that person is in my life I will have provided a safe haven for them and encouraged them to grow and live their life to the full. MY little life lies sitting on the beach of life so often and may appear seemingly useless now. Yet along comes someone who looks upon my life and thinks to themselves “I have never seen such a beautiful life!” They will then take the time to appreciate the rough and smooth areas of my life, they will notice the moments of sharpness, all my changing colours and ways of being and still appreciate it for what it is and they too will be transformed. If you have such a person in your life who can see you in this way then this is something to embrace fully.
I don’t. But I still recognise in other people these elements. This ability to see the whole person is possible and occurs on a daily basis. Even if you think you don’t have such a person in your life then allow me to tell you this great big not-so-secret secret! There is someone who looks upon you and thinks that you are, with all your flaws and failings, with all your differing moods and ways, absolutely Magnificent. There is a reason for your existence.
Life really is a beach. There is no one singular way you can make the journey home. There is no one set path. You just have to do the best with what God gave you and hope for the best in the decisions that you take. I ask courage for my heart to take risks, and to risk being vulnerable. This coming Tuesday the universal Church will recognise the feast day of Saint Francis de Sales. Saint Francis is the patron saint of writers and journalists and is my second favourite Saint Francis! He tells us that “whoever wants to preach effectively must preach with love.” As I walk this beach of life I pray to have the humility to know that I am a mere shell, but I am just as important as anyone else. Whatever I do, whoever I meet I pray that I encounter them with Love.
I am indeed striving to be a better man. This has been my nightly prayer for the last while and will remain my daily prayer from now until whenever: May I be a better man tomorrow than I was today. Amen.