A recent staff retreat forced (I am using that word a bit loosely obviously) us to spend some time walking the beach. We were supposed to be thinking about a new proposal for Sunday School. I found the shells a bit too distracting. After picking up a few shells, some whole and some in pieces, it struck me that they were an interesting analogy for the people I have met over the years of my life. Heck, they could just as easily be an analogy for my life at different times and seasons.
Most of the shells along the beach were broken and worn. Some had massive holes in them. Some of the pieces, though not entire shells, were nonetheless very beautiful and quite interesting. And then there were those shells that looked perfect but when taken home they developed legs and crawled off somewhere. Hermit crabs.
People are sometimes like those shells in that life beats up on all of us. We get bashed about on the rocks and shores of life. We run into the abrasive parts of others. Sometimes the damage we suffer along the way leaves us incomplete – sometimes with massive holes or hollow places within us. Yet even in their brokenness, many people are fascinating and beautiful and have some amazing stories about how they came to be the way they are. Every now and then you meet someone who looks altogether perfect at first, only to discover that a crab is hiding inside.
I am reminded again that you often don’t know what’s inside a person until life puts the squeeze on them. Only when cracked open by the hard times do you get a glimpse into the deep inner spaces of a man or woman. I suppose what we all need in the bowels of our being is the Spirit of God. Only then can we hold together in the trials and gut-wrenching times in our lives. Only then can something beautiful come out when we find ourselves broken and coming undone.
Otherwise, we might just be overrun by crabs.