"Do now, do now, what you will wish to have done when your moment comes to die." [St. Angela Merici]

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Like a Crab—Into Christ?

By Micky Wolf

Numerous insects and animals molt—and not just once, but several times throughout their lives. Most of us have seen evidence of this activity. Depending on where you live, a stroll through the park, a picnic in the backyard, or a walk on the beach provide interesting clues to the ‘shedding of the out-sized and old”. 

Those who live near or can spend some time at an ocean may occasionally witness crabs undergoing a molt. And that is when things can get interesting, especially if the crab is in the very vulnerable soft shell stage of the process. 

Seems crabs and Christians may have much more in common than first glance might suggest. Crabby puns aside, there are some intriguing correlations with our crustacean companions and our becoming Christ-like. 

While we may appreciate we have a choice in all of this, the bottom line is pretty clear—change, or transformation of a human eternal nature--involves vulnerability and risk mixed with a big dose of courage. 

If you have been a Christian for more than a couple of days, you soon realize that learning to love and live through the example of Jesus is not a one-time event. To the contrary—if you and I are not experiencing transformation of spirit, mind, heart, and emotions on a regular basis we are stuck, indifferent, or making the choice to soak in the familiar and comfortable rather than cooperate with God’s love, grace and mercy to be challenged, stretched and continue growing into greater Christ-likeness. 

Phase 1: Proecdysis or Pre-Molt “Peeler” Stage

Feeling a bit odd? Your thoughts a little confused? Maybe you are in proecdysis, otherwise known as the pre-molt stage of transformation. In this phase, hormones are released, the underlying hypodermis detaches from the shell, and enzymes go to work dissolving the old covering.

The work God does in us has similar effects. When we realize He desires to teach us something new—heal, stretch, or draw us into greater depths of intimacy with Him—our thoughts, feelings and emotions stir with uncertainty, concern, and a whole lot questions. What is going on? Is this you, God? My human nature resisting the change process? Proecdysis for the crab—and the Christian—is a time of casting off what has served one well in order something more fitting might be formed.

The challenge of living through this phase is that of trusting self into God’s heart and hands amidst the disorienting and unsettling changes taking place. It is not surprising our initial reaction may be to fight the process rather than surrender to the One who knows and understands us better than we know ourselves.

Phase 2: Ecdysis or “Busting” Stage

If phase one is all about preparation in unknowing and discomfort, phase two is downright messy and life-altering. In this phase, the crab stops eating and seeks shelter, fully aware that as the old shell falls away, it is one very soft and delectable delight for any of numerous predators. 

And so it is with the Christian. In leaving the old and previously comfortable womb of life-as-usual, we rest now, exposed, awaiting the solidifying necessary to incorporate and envelope fresh insight, revelation,  and healing—all signs and indications of our new life in Christ.

The challenge in living through this phase, even thriving as it unfolds, is to not hide self away in shame or fear of our nakedness as God tends to our transformation.  At the same time, it is wisdom to pay some attention to when, where, and with whom we may seek temporary shelter. In order for the new to take hold, every fragment of the old has to be discarded. For the crab, it is a matter of literally “backing out” of the old shell. For us, it is certainly a matter of specifically choosing to “let go and walk away” from the old in order to step into the new. In this phase we need gracious, compassionate, loving family and friends who will love us while not exploiting our vulnerability.

Phase 3: Metecdysis or Post-Molt “Soft Shell” Stage

Having been disoriented and prepared in phase one, softened and exposed in phase two, we enter phase three. For the crab, this means remaining in salt water long enough for the new shell—outer covering—to materialize and harden, a process which may take two or more days. For the Christian, this usually signals a period of resting in the Lord, literally and spiritually. 

We need to take some deep breaths and relax as the new self evolves. As we allow the Lord to “form” our new self, He seamlessly integrates all that we have been, are in this moment, and have yet to become. Striving—to the extent necessary for phase two—is a thing of the past. Now we can begin to savor and appreciate all that has transpired as we have done our part and God has done His.

Characteristics of Transformation

For Christians who desire to love and serve as Jesus, it is important we learn to recognize the characteristics of “God at work” in self as well as in others. Having an awareness of some of the ‘symptoms’ helps us to be more loving, patient and persevering through all stages of the process.

For example:

  • In between molts crabs have very hard shells. We, too, can become very set in our ways of thinking and feeling. 
          Do you have a sense God may desire to soften and form something new in you?

  • Crabs usually become dull and grayish in color and move slower in a pre-molt phase. 
          Are you noting similar symptoms in your body, mind, spirit and emotions?

  • Crabs know when it is time to seek shelter as the old is stripped away.
         Are you wise and trusting, first with the Lord, and then with a spiritually mature  
         companion or supportive community, in your season of hiddenness as you let go of  
         the familiar?

  • Crabs need energy reserves—absorbing large quantities of nutrients and salt water—for the hard work of shedding, resting and allowing the new to be formed. 
         Are you open to the need for self-care as essential to the recreating and building  
         anew of the whole of your being?

The longer the crab lives, the greater the time span between molts, even as the process of molting usually claims its very life. Inevitably, the ultimate transformation for you and me will be one that ends in physical death as well. However, in keeping our eyes fixed on Jesus, the hope set before us, we can look forward to our final transformation as one of eternal life with God the Father.

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