Collecting shells at the beach is almost mandatory, especially if you live inland and don’t get to visit the ocean very often. We have jars of shells collected from beaches in Maine, Massachusetts, Virginia, North and South Carolina, and Florida. We even have a book to help identify them–not that I can remember the names of more than a few.

I’ve known for a long time that shells come in a ridiculous number of beautiful variations. But only recently have I realized the amazing secrets hidden inside the living shells.

And, yes, shells start out as living creatures. It may seem silly, but I’ve never thought of them that way until we visited the National Shell Museum on Sanibel Island. Last week, we made our second visit, and I learned even more about these amazing creatures.

In essence, shellfish are inside-out animals. Their shell is essentially like a skeleton that holds the body parts of a mollusk together. And they do have parts and organs, including eyes, heart, mouth, foot, stomach, and intestines. Different types have different personalities, too. Some attack and eat other shellfish, some eat only plants, some bury themselves in the sand, and some like to explore.

If shells come in such variety and hide so many secrets, how much more variety do we humans offer? We even speak of a private person as having a “shell.” Each one of us has secrets, but our Creator knows them all.

Long ago, the Psalmist wrote, “My frame was not hidden from you, when I was being made in secret, intricately woven in the depths of the earth” (Psalm 139:15, ESV).

I’m grateful that God created mollusks with their beautiful shells for us to enjoy looking at and collecting (as long as they’re not alive). I’m even more grateful that He created you and me and that He knows our innermost secrets, as well as our frames.