Thursday, January 21, 2016

Hermit Crab House Swap

Jordan, our 21-year old son, walked up from the beach in Mexico, carrying a shell that had washed ashore. It was a heavy, black and white, cone-shaped seashell, about 5-inches long and in great condition. He placed it on the gray concrete under the palapa at the condo we rented and said, “I’m going to leave this out overnight and see if a hermit crab moves in.” Yeah right, I thought, what are the chances of that happening?
We had seen numerous hermit crabs crawling around like tiny tarantulas at night, slogging along the walkway, clambering up the walls of a little wood-sided bathroom near the pool, and teetering on the edge of the footbath. It didn’t seem possible that one would find and move into this shell. Besides, I’ve never been a big hermit crab fan; they creep me out. I couldn’t imagine they would have the “intelligence” or behavior guiding them to this random spot and shell. But, after what we witnessed later that night, I have a whole new perspective on the hermit crab.
My husband and our three adult sons were relaxing outside after dinner enjoying the cool air from the ocean breeze when we noticed hermit crabs congregating near the empty black and white shell. “No way,” Jordan said and the rest of us dropped our jaws in amazement. Within a few minutes seven hermit crabs had lined up, biggest to smallest, behind the empty shell. I’m. Not. Joking.
The largest hermit crab, first in line, was checking out the empty shell. He was feeling it with his claws and tentacles and turning it over examining it. He liked what he saw because suddenly he popped out of his shell and stuck his worm-like rear-end into the new shell. He moved in. He found something bigger and better than what he had.
This started a chain reaction. Each hermit crab popped out of it’s current home and plopped into the empty shell in front of it. Two smaller crabs at the end of the line had a battle over the last smallest empty shell until one gave up and the other made the move. The excitement ended and they sauntered off in their new homes. We couldn’t believe it. Did that really just happen? Who knew hermit crabs could organize like that and swap houses? It happened fast. We didn’t even have time to grab our phones and video it. (I did find a video on YouTube because it was so unbelievable and the journalist in me wanted to know if this was common hermit crab behavior: Check this out - www.youtube.com/watch?v=tsIszzDRWI8 )
This experience left me with two insights. One, God is creative and his presence is evident in all of creation, even those creatures that are annoying (like mosquitos) or creepy (like hermit crabs). The bible verse, Romans 1:19-20, Jim shared in his sermon in the recent, Under Review, series has more meaning for me than ever before, “For his invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made.” For me, watching this remarkable hermit crab behavior increased my belief that God is real.
Two, I’m not that different from the hermit crab. As I’ve taken a time-out to put my own life under review, I’ve thought about, what do I think about God and why? And what is good and true in my life and what I want to change. One behavior I want to change is to stop seeking the bigger and better and start finding contentment.
We live in a culture where we seek bigger and better. Whether it’s a bigger and better job, home, vacation, car, mountain to climb, or fill in the blank_______________. We spend enormous amounts of time, money and energy looking for that bigger and better. I know I have over the years. Moving from a small apartment to bigger homes. Writing books in hopes that each one will sell more than the last. Planning vacations seeking a bigger and better experience for our family. The list goes on and on.
I want to have a more meaningful life than that of the hermit crab, slogging along each day and night seeking that bigger and better. This coming year I’m going to pursue contentment. If I can practice contentment I believe I’ll experience peace. It’s about time I figured that out!
I’m also going to live with my eyes open, looking for the big and little wonders God has for me to see on this earth, so I can gain more understanding of how great and awesome our God is.


Jean Blackmer is married to Zane and mother to three boys. She’s authored three books, contributed content to more than 20 books, and written articles for a variety of magazines. She loves her family, chocolate, scuba diving and salt but not a fan of insects or little crabs.

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