Woman in her late 30s, smiling.

I Wonder … what your new shell will look like?

by Laci Lee Adams

I had the wonderful opportunity to discuss hermit crabs in worship on July 9th! And I haven’t been able to get them out of my mind since.

If you weren’t in worship on that day and haven’t seen this mind-blowing BBC Earth Kids feature on hermit crab, stop reading and watch this video: https://youtu.be/zpjklLt1qWk. If you are able to keep on reading without watching the video, I understand that impulse (I really do!), but I promise the video is worth your time and it will make the rest of this column make a whole lot more sense.

The hermit crabs are trying to teach me (and maybe us?) two very important lessons: (1) We are not alone and (2) We are still growing!

It is profoundly easy in our culture to believe that we are in it (whatever “it” might be to you in this moment) alone and that whatever happens next is completely up to us and us alone. WOW – that is an isolating place to be! No wonder as a country we are suffering (even before COVID-19) from a pandemic of loneliness (https://www.pbs.org/newshour/show/why-americans-are-lonelier-and-its-effects-on-our-health). But the hermit crabs remind us that we don’t have to go it alone. There are others ready to line up next to us, to support our growth, to offer us shelter (in the form of a shell!).

Likewise, we often imagine adulthood or parenting or retirement or name your favorite life milestone as a destination of completion. Places that, once we arrive there, signal that we are DONE! The race is won! Here too the hermit crabs beg to differ. They are constantly growing. And the search for a new shell is a reminder of that growth. I keep wondering about how different I would feel if I was comfortable being constantly reminded that I was growing and changing? What would I stop grasping for? What could I let go of or lay down so I could reach for the next shell? How might I treat people differently if I really accepted and engaged with my own growth and the growing and changing around me?

These crabs keep asking me to ask more questions while I stand in line for my next shell! In this way, I am becoming convinced that these hermit crabs are a near perfect analogy for this thing we call “Lifespan Faith Development.”