Three days before I left for Portland, I admitted to my oldest son and his wife that living alone was mostly leaving me lonely. I needed people around me, particularly at night time. I asked if the offer to move a bed into their house was still good. “Of course” they said.
Two days later, I found out that I could not stay in my condominium. I live in a 55 and older community and I am not 55. Our request for a one year exception was denied.
One day later, I would be on a mission trip to Portland, Maine with some folks from church. One of the things we were going to do was work with refugee families. The irony was not lost on me. I would encounter people who had fled from their homes, who had been displaced from any kind of life they knew, who would eventually settle here, a foreign land. Perspective… perspective.
Two days into the trip, I made a joke about being homeless when I get back to NJ. One of my teammates quickly responded, “You are not homeless; you are house-less. They are not the same thing.” Again… Perspective.
Three days into the trip, we stole 30 minutes to check out the rocky beaches of Portland (different from the miles of sand along the Jersey shore.) One of the young adults on the trip was collecting shells and I asked her to pick me a good one. They were fully intact snail shells, still fully intact.
They reminded me of the parable of the lobster -
“Long ago, when the world was very new... there was a certain lobster who determined that the Creator had made a mistake. So he set up an appointment to discuss the matter. “With all due respect,” said the lobster, “I wish to complain about the way you designed my shell. You see, I just get used to one outer casing, when I’ve got to shed it for another; very inconvenient and rather a waste of time.” To which the Creator replied, “I see. But do you realize that it is the giving up of one shell that allows you to grow into another?”
Because lobster shell is not elastic, the lobster must shed its shell in order to grow. Shedding is called “ecdysis” and the overall process is called molting. A lobster will molt dozens of times over the course of its life. Therefore, much of a lobster’s life is spent preparing for, performing and recovering from molting.
I dare say in this way, we are very much like lobsters. We spend a lot of our time preparing for, performing and recovering from molting.
And if resist or refuse, our lives become uncomfortable and unmangable. Similarly to the unhappy lobster who requested to stay in its shell, I believe we too can resist change. Haven’t we all been guilty of trying to stay where we are when we really needed to move on, change, grow, mature… molt?
For sure, the molting process is gruesome; it’s vulnerable, stressful, painful and downright scary. But my shell doesn’t fit anymore; in fact, it’s for many reasons thrust on me and for reasons I control, the life I had is no longer compatible. While I will pray for patience and peace through this process, it is clear that the steps are mine to take. God will not take them for me. And so I will read, reflect, share, process, learn what I can about what I am becoming so as to find and grow into my new habitat.