New shell

A few weeks ago I had an image that was perfect.

I was sitting on the bus, as I usually do as a commuter, and I remembered being a child. I remembered being down the shore at the beach, and getting hermit crabs. I remember they smelled pretty weird, I remember getting cages for them, I remember the wet sponge we would put in their cage, and I remembered the shell. I remembered the shell because when you have hermit crabs you realize that sometimes they run around naked. I’m serious. They take off their old shell and they look for a new shell. And it was in that moment, that I realized in this season of life, however long it might end up being, I am running around naked looking for my new shell.

What I mean is, there are times in life, where you realize your “shell” isn’t big enough for you anymore. You have grown too large to fit this “old shell”. And sometimes you feel exposed. It might sound ridiculous but I identify this as being a naked, streaking, hermit crab. Running around sometimes, looking for the next place. Now this could be a new job, a new relationship, or this could simply be running nakedly around but not having any idea where you are going. You know you don’t fit where you are, you have an idea of what God might have for you in the future, but it isn’t ready for you yet. You have grown uncomfortable in what no longer fits, but your new shell is not ready. RIGHT? I can’t be the only one streaking around here.

The best possible thing I did when writing this just in this exact moment was look up Hermit crabs on Wikipedia. Get ready for this!:

As hermit crabs grow, they require larger shells. Since suitable intact gastropod shells are sometimes a limited resource, vigorous competition often occurs among hermit crabs for shells. The availability of empty shells at any given place depends on the relative abundance of gastropods and hermit crabs, matched for size. An equally important issue is the population of organisms that prey upon gastropods and leave the shells intact.[6] Hermit crabs kept together may fight or kill a competitor to gain access to the shell they favour. However, if the crabs vary significantly in size, the occurrence of fights over empty shells will decrease or remain nonexistent.[7] Hermit crabs with too-small shells cannot grow as fast as those with well-fitting shells, and are more likely to be eaten if they cannot retract completely into the shell.[8]

As the hermit crab grows in size, it must find a larger shell and abandon the previous one. This habit of living in a second-hand shell gives rise to the popular name “hermit crab”, by analogy to a hermit who lives alone.[9] Several hermit crab species, both terrestrial and marine, have been observed forming a vacancy chain to exchange shells.[10] When an individual crab finds a new empty shell it will leave its own shell and inspect the vacant shell for size. If the shell is found to be too large, the crab goes back to its own shell and then waits by the vacant shell for anything up to 8 hours. As new crabs arrive they also inspect the shell and, if it is too big, wait with the others, forming a group of up to 20 individuals, holding onto each other in a line from the largest to the smallest crab. As soon as a crab arrives that is the right size for the vacant shell and claims it, leaving its old shell vacant, then all the crabs in the queue swiftly exchange shells in sequence, each one moving up to the next size.[11] Hermit crabs often “gang up” on one of their species with what they perceive to be a better shell, and pry its shell away from it before competing for it until one takes it over.[12]

I’m sorry but I could just about FALL OVER dead after reading this! Hermit crabs sound a lot like you and me. And I think God is hilarious for showing this to me. Don’t you?

If you need me to beat you over the head with what I’m talking about here you go:

– “Since suitable intact gastropod shells are sometimes a limited resource, vigorous competition often occurs among hermit crabs for shells.”

Aka sometimes there aren’t very many shells compared to hermit crabs who need them. Okay?????? So this explains why sometimes we are all a little insane. We, at various times, are cramped in our current space. We’re ready to jump. God you want us to move across country? Great I packed yesterday. God you want me to break up with that person? Great I’ll do it, where’s the next one? God I’ve been faithful to my unsaved spouse for 30 years and you want me to stay? Great when are they finally coming to church? God you want me to be a preacher? Great, when can I start? The list goes on guys. But to be real, it can feel like there’s a lot more cramped people than new places to run to. C’mon now. That’s good! That’s the truth right there. There are many want-to-be writers, there are many singles wanting to be married, there are many aspiring musicians, there are many single-mothers who just want their boyfriends/husbands to finally give in and go to church. The list is endless. And yet, you can often look around in your life, and feel like there isn’t any room for you. The “shells”, so to speak, have been occupied. You can feel like you got your revelation too late, because like the childhood game of musical chairs, all the seats are taken, and you are still naked! Or the vultures of life could have destroyed the shell you thought you were going to get. This could be a fiancé who broke off the wedding, this could be a job offer that fell through, this could be someone who stole your husband/wife and your marriage through adultery. I don’t know. But regardless you can feel like you are exposed, and shell-less. But let me remind you and my own often naked heart that God didn’t make you to live in competition. He provided more than enough “shells” for all of us. So if someone else is getting married, or someone less qualified got your job, or someone is the worship leader but you’ve been humbly serving for years, just know there are plenty of shells to go around. We don’t have to fight for our space.

– “Hermit crabs with too-small shells cannot grow as fast as those with well-fitting shells, and are more likely to be eaten if they cannot retract completely into the shell.”

AMEN. Again. AMEN. Okay everyone. So we are all on this journey. We all have different timelines. And yes..it totally..excuse my French..sucks sometimes. As a single woman it sometimes pains my heart and womb to see people getting married or having babies. I don’t feel anywhere near that some days. But rather than dwell on what other people are living, what their “shell” is. I need to dwell where I am. Where God has me. I can’t force myself to grow any faster, just like they can’t force themselves to be unfit for their “shell”. Their shell fits right now, and mine doesn’t. I can’t make a new shell appear out of no where. Everything has it’s time, am I right? Rather than let the vultures of life i.e. jealousy, comparison, fear, etc. eat us alive we need to trust that in the season where we are too big for our old life, old dreams, whatever. That we are covered by God. We might not have our own covering, but He is forever covering us, His children. It’s scary to think that we’re half in, half out of a place that no longer fits us, and exposed in some way. But in this time where things don’t quite fit, we need to remember that we are still covered by Him.

– “When an individual crab finds a new empty shell it will leave its own shell and inspect the vacant shell for size. If the shell is found to be too large, the crab goes back to its own shell and then waits by the vacant shell for anything up to 8 hours. As new crabs arrive they also inspect the shell and, if it is too big, wait with the others, forming a group of up to 20 individuals, holding onto each other in a line from the largest to the smallest crab. As soon as a crab arrives that is the right size for the vacant shell and claims it, leaving its old shell vacant, then all the crabs in the queue swiftly exchange shells in sequence, each one moving up to the next size.”

I think this is so cute. I love this whole idea because I think it shows the power of being “naked” together. I think this is why the “church” as a body of believers exists. We are all exposed at different times and in different seasons. There are older people, who have lived in their “shells” for years, and younger people who are constantly growing. We need to stop camping out as Christians in our old shells just because it’s comfortable. Let that sink in for a minute. Stop reading. Okay ready? We need to stop staying in our old shells. This might mean, opening your home to a family who can’t afford their apartment anymore. This might mean, inviting that person you don’t really like to hang out with your friend group. This might mean elevating someone in your volunteer group to a higher position, even your own, because they might be better than you at it. Shocking right? I love this image of silly little hermit crabs, naked, in a line from big to small, waiting for people in their group to find a bigger shell, to have some more space, to live more comfortably, to have an opportunity because everyone left what they used to have behind. We can’t grow if there are no vacancies, people! Make some space.

– “Hermit crabs often “gang up” on one of their species with what they perceive to be a better shell”

Just stop, God. Just stop. Hello ladies. Does any of this speak to you??? I can’t even begin to tell you how this punched me right in the gut. I’ve often felt in girl groups to be on the outs. What I mean is, I’m not the one asked to be in pictures, I’m not the one invited to everything, I know what it’s like to feel unwanted even in a group of Christian girls. We all have. I can only speak as a woman, but there are times we can be both the victim of this and the perpetrator. You can judge a girl by her “shell” if she’s prettier than you, or more successful than you, or the guy you like at church likes her instead of you. I’ve seen this way too much with girls/women. You do not have to gang up on someone for having a better shell than you. Whether physical or situational (job, house, husband, kids, etc) as a mature Christian woman you should not be someone who gangs up on another woman. It’s not us versus them, it’s not you versus me, it’s He and it’s we (as a sisterhood). And that’s it. I want a new shell, you might want the same shell, but it doesn’t mean we need to cat fight for it. God is more than able to supply all of our needs and He’s not up there taking bets on which one of us will win the fight. Capiche?

All of this to say that. 1. I hope one of these resonated with you. 2. We are all exposed in some way. We are all nakedly running around waiting for God to answer some prayer. We can choose to be covered by Him, or be running for cover in “shells” that are not the right fit. I pray that we begin to be comfortable standing under His wings, totally naked, knowing that He is always working on our behalf and He will not keep pouring Himself out into old wineskins, old shells, when He made us for more. He made us new.

The best is yet to come. Our best from Him, not your friend’s best. Or your co-worker’s best. Or that person you envy on social media’s best. God has His individual and unique best for you. And the best is yet to come. Will you wait?

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