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Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Life is Lobsterlabile


Many of us as children were told not to play with our food. But when I had my own family and we sat down to a meal at Red Lobster we couldn't help but make play with those crusty crustaceans. Each one of those aquatic arthropods took on a character of its own. Claws  became clothespins, nose pickers, barrettes, and every other kind of grippers imaginable. The empty shells were a restaurant raucous. Yes, our fabulous five along with their petrified parents were lobster lunatics. 

Since normal for my family is only a setting on the washer, it seemed normal for me to get up close and personal with my lobster. I invited mine to come along but she said she's already been where I am  going.

The up close part is this. 
In order to mature, lobsters have to rid themselves of their old, hard, protective shell and grow a new, larger one. You get the picture. Off with the old, on with the new. They do this about twenty five times in the first five years of their life and once a year thereafter. 

Along with being a lot of hard work, you can imagine what a grisly, goopy mess that must be. Water and blood leave the claw, and the flesh inside shrivels up to about a quarter of its normal size. Then, under pressure the stony covering cracks. The labile lobster then lies on its side, flexes its muscles,  and pulls itself from the cracked crust. 

Even though the meat inside the claw shrinks, it sometimes gets stuck inside the narrow knuckle and the crusty creature must throw the claw and abandon both flesh and shell. What's left is a clueless, clawless, naked lobster lying on a bed of sand waiting for new housing. 

This part is the personal.
In some sense I am like a lobster. I have matured some. I have rid myself of some hard, protective layers and grown new coverings. But sometimes, still growing into newness, I live in an undersized shell refusing to come out and face the elements. I refuse to be vulnerable. Let's face it, life can be an ugly, gooey mess. It's threatening at any age and none of us are immune to it. 

We have all suffered abuses in one form or another; some emotional, some physical, some spiritual. But if we want to grow we must learn to lie down and cast the crust.  Sometimes that means letting go of something precious, throwing the claw. Life is the irritable sand we must muddle through while growing and molting. Living, on the other hand, is being vulnerable and accepting the crusty changes.

We are designed for authenticity; to walk in realness, and relationship, to share our habitat with others different than ourselves even if it means being vulnerable to our surroundings. If we fight to stay inside our shell we only multiply the pain in growing. If we hide, we tend to build our lives in ways that cover up how damaged and cracked we really are. 
  
One of my favorite struggles to shed the shell is found in the writings of C.S. Lewis. Voyage of the Dawn Treader  gives us an idea of what it is like to allow God to have a hand in our molting and expose our vulnerability.

“Well, anyway, I looked up and saw the very last thing I expected: a huge lion coming slowly towards me. And one queer thing was that there was no moon last night, but there was moonlight where the lion was. So it came nearer and nearer. I was terribly afraid of it. You may think that, being a dragon, I could have knocked any lion out easily enough. But it wasn't that kind of fear. I wasn't afraid of it eating me, I was just afraid of it - if you can understand. Well, it came close up to me and looked straight into my eyes. And I shut my eyes tight. But that wasn't any good because it told me to follow it.”
“You mean it spoke?”
“I don't know. Now that you mention it, I don't think it did. But it told me all the same. And I knew I'd have to do what it told me, so I got up and followed it. And it led me a long way into the mountains. And there was always this moonlight over and round the lion wherever we went. So at last we came to the top of a mountain I'd never seen before and on the top of this mountain there was a garden - trees and fruit and everything. In the middle of it there was a well.
“I knew it was a well because you could see the water bubbling up from the bottom of it: but it was a lot bigger than most wells - like a very big, round bath with marble steps going down into it. The water was as clear as anything and I thought if I could get in there and bathe it would ease the pain in my leg. But the lion told me I must undress first. Mind you, I don't know if he said any words out loud or not.
“I was just going to say that I couldn't undress because I hadn't any clothes on when I suddenly thought that dragons are snaky sort of things and snakes can cast their skins. Oh, of course, thought I, that's what the lion means. So I started scratching myself and my scales began coming off all over the place. And then I scratched a little deeper and, instead of just scales coming off here and there, my whole skin started peeling off beautifully, like it does after an illness, or as if I was a banana. In a minute or two I just stepped out of it. I could see it lying there beside me, looking rather nasty. It was a most lovely feeling. So I started to go down into the well for my bathe.
“But just as I was going to put my feet into the water I looked down and saw that they were all hard and rough and wrinkled and scaly just as they had been before. Oh, that's all right, said I, it only means I had another smaller suit on underneath the first one, and I'll have to get out of it too. So I scratched and tore again and this underskin peeled off beautifully and out I stepped and left it lying beside the other one and went down to the well for my bathe.
“Well, exactly the same thing happened again. And I thought to myself, oh dear, how ever many skins have I got to take off? For I was longing to bathe my leg. So I scratched away for the third time and got off a third skin, just like the two others, and stepped out of it. But as soon as I looked at myself in the water I knew it had been no good.
“Then the lion said - but I don't know if it spoke – ‘You will have to let me undress you.’ I was afraid of his claws, I can tell you, but I was pretty nearly desperate now. So I just lay flat down on my back to let him do it.
“The very first tear he made was so deep that I thought it had gone right into my heart. And when he began pulling the skin off, it hurt worse than anything I've ever felt. The only thing that made me able to bear it was just the pleasure of feeling the stuff peel off. You know - if you've ever picked the scab off a sore place. It hurts like billy-oh but it is such fun to see it coming away.”
“I know exactly what you mean,” said Edmund.
“Well, he peeled the beastly stuff right off - just as I thought I'd done it myself the other three times, only they hadn't hurt - and there it was lying on the grass: only ever so much thicker, and darker, and more knobbly-looking than the others had been. And there was I as smooth and soft as a peeled switch and smaller than I had been. Then he caught hold of me - I didn't like that much for I was very tender underneath now that I'd no skin on - and threw me into the water. It smarted like anything but only for a moment. After that it became perfectly delicious and as soon as I started swimming and splashing I found that all the pain had gone from my arm. And then I saw why. I'd turned into a boy again. You'd think me simply phoney if I told you how I felt about my own arms. I know they've no muscle and are pretty mouldy compared with Caspian's, but I was so glad to see them.
“After a bit the lion took me out and dressed me –“
“Dressed you. With his paws?”
“Well, I don't exactly remember that bit. But he did somehow or other: in new clothes - the same I've got on now, as a matter of fact. And then suddenly I was back here. Which is what makes me think it must have been a dream.”
“No. It wasn't a dream,” said Edmund.
“Why not?”
“Well, there are the clothes, for one thing. And you have been - well, un-dragoned, for another.”
“What do you think it was, then?” asked Eustace.
“I think you've seen Aslan,” said Edmund.

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