Wednesday, January 8, 2014

Conch Creature & Eternity

Most times when we see a conch shell it's empty of everything but the sound of the sea when we hold it to our ear.  Here is a conch shell with its resident creature still attached -- a rare view of what these shells were originally created for.  This little guy lives in the beautiful clear waters along the shoreline of St. Maarten Island.  Our guide pulled him from the water for us to see (you can still see a droplet of water ready to fall from the bottom edge of the shell).

When I researched the conch on the internet, I was surprised to learn that they can live up to 40 years.  The hard spiral-shaped shell apparently grows along with the soft-bodied animal living within its protective interior and reaches full-size at around four years of age.  I was happy to be able to purchase several of these lovely works of art (created by the Master Artist) -- minus the little sea creature -- in Grand Turk quite inexpensively.  The Turks seem to be pretty much the Conch capital of the world.  Lest you think it seems like cruelty to animals, the conch is considered a staple in the diet of those who live in the Caribbean. 

Seeking a spiritual message from this conch and shell -- besides the obvious wonder and variety of all of God's amazing creations -- sent my mind spinning in different directions before I read a quote from a well-known work of literature.  In William Golding's, "Lord of the Flies," he mentions the conch several times.  He writes about it's fragility, saying, "It exploded into a thousand white fragments and ceased to exist."

As soon as I read that description by Golding, I saw a message about those who believe that when we die we cease to exist.  While an exploded conch shell does cease to exist -- except perhaps as grains of shell-sand littering the beach, the human soul never ceases to exist.  The human soul lives forever and ever, beyond anything our finite minds can ever comprehend.  It is interesting (and sad) to note, however, that not everyone agrees with this truth.

Robert Ingersoll was an agnostic who lived in the nineteenth century.  He was a brilliant orator and, I believe, he searched for the truth but may have never found it -- at least his speeches and writings don't indicate that he ever did.  Here's a touching excerpt from the tribute he gave at his brother's funeral:  "Life is a narrow vale between the cold and barren peaks of two eternities. We strive in vain to look beyond the heights. We cry aloud, and the only answer is the echo of our wailing cry. From the voiceless lips of the unreplying dead there comes no word; but in the night of death hope sees a star and listening love can hear the rustle of a wing."

It appears that Ingersoll hoped there might be life after death, but his uncertainty left him feeling bleak and, I would imagine in his quiet moments -- frightened.  A family friend of mine believes that when a person dies, that's the end -- there's nothing more beyond that last breath -- we cease to exist.  I wouldn't want to spend my life with that hopeless belief.  I truly can't imagine what that would feel like, because I have always believed 100% that there is a heaven and a hell and that we will spend eternity in one of those places.  Because I've accepted Jesus Christ as my Savior, I believe 100% that I will be spending the remainder of my eternal life in that amazing place called heaven.

Scripture has many verses that make crystal clear that there is no such thing as "ceasing to exist" when it comes to humans.  2 Corinthians 5:1 is one of those verses:  "Now we know that if the earthly tent we live in is destroyed, we have a building from God, an eternal house in heaven, not built by human hands." 

Then, there's the promise Jesus made in John 14:  "In my Father's house are many rooms; if it were not so, I would have told you.  I am going there to prepare a place for you.  And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am."

The verse in Philippians 3:20 makes a Christian's future destination absolutely clear:  "But our citizenship is in heaven.  And we eagerly await a Savior from there, the Lord Jesus Christ, who, by the power that enables Him to bring everything under His control, will transform our lowly bodies so that they will be like His glorious body."

While a conch shell might very well "explode into a thousand white fragments and cease to exist," our human spirits and even our glorified bodies will most definitely be around for always.  I for one find that assurance most comforting.

Note:  The next blog will be sort of a continuation on this theme.

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