I Feel Like a Naked Hermit Crab

Confession #1: I am really not a pet person.

Now, don’t get me wrong. I love animals. After all, the animal world displays God’s creativity in staggering ways. We “grown-ups” overlook it far too often, but young children capture it when learning to color. How about some stripes or dots on that four-legged form in the coloring book? Why not? God did it first!

Or how about adding a tail that looks like it spent time in curlers or making an animal’s nose its portal for sight? How about prickly pins for animal clothing or a fur coat that looks like it went through the wrong dryer setting? Again, God’s idea first.

I came by my “not really being a pet person” honestly…like parents like child. So, when I reached the childhood milestone of pet-yearning, my parents got creative, finding me low-maintenance critters to satisfy my longings and provide those great responsibility lessons along the way. The Napoli Childhood Pet Annals reveal that rabbits – in all sorts of colors, sizes, and breeds, including one blue angora and one purple angora whose fur we gave spinning on a spinning wheel a whirl – were the pets of choice.

However, my very first pets were two hermit crabs, Mike (after my dad) and Fred (after the father of one of my best friends up the street). I remember looking into Mike and Fred’s aquarium-home one morning to find a shocking discovery. Mike had become separated from his shell! Naked hermit crab in one corner…empty shell in another! That’s the day I learned that hermit crab bodies grow, and hermit crab shells do not. (Be gentle, please. Remember, I was in early elementary school.) Thus, when a hermit crab outgrows his shell, he sheds it and goes house hunting, no real estate agents needed. In fact, in Hermit Crab Society, empty shells are not the only option. Apparently, you can covet your neighbor’s house and can challenge him to a sort of arm wrestling match for ownership. Claws up. Last man standing wins residence rights. Fortunately for Fred, he and Mike started aquarium co-habitation on the same socio-economic level, so their houses were the same size. Therefore, having no interest in Fred’s shell, and with limited (uh…no other) options, Mike roamed the sands of the aquarium naked and vulnerable.

Confession #2: I feel like a naked hermit crab these days.

The last decade of my journey with Jesus – which turned out to be a search for and discovery of real Jesus – kept me growing and growing until the Americanized version of Christianity became too small and increasingly uncomfortable. So, I, both Claude and I for that matter, have shed our shells. Now, we roam the aquarium feeling naked and vulnerable much of the time. Unfortunately, life’s aquarium is not quite as safe as the one in my bedroom on Driftwood Lane. And Claude and I keep wondering when Jesus will show us our new home – roomy enough for Jesus' extravagant love and grace, adequate shelter from life's storms, and more fitting for following the radical ways of real Jesus.

(It was only this morning, wrestling in the form of words penned on my journal pages, that the revelation of feeling like a naked hermit crab emerged. So, dear reader, stay tuned…more to come. Hopefully, you will join me along the way. And maybe, if you have not already shed your shell, you will. And maybe, if you have shed your shell, you and I can find some shelter, a new shell, together.)