Living near the Chesapeake Bay, I’m pretty familiar with the Maryland Blue Crab. They are amazing looking creatures and come in all sizes. I’ve seen baby ones that measure barely an inch and have also seen crabs that are 8 inches across with formidable claws.
What most people don’t know is that crabs don’t start off small and continue growing until they are as large as the one I just described. They go through a fascinating process that I believe has similarities to the way we, as humans, grow emotionally, spiritually. and even physically.
A small crab starts off with a soft shell. As it grows, this shell calcifies becoming harder and harder until it literally prevents the crab from being able to grow any larger. The crab then sloughs its hard shell and becomes a soft shell crab once more. The hard shell provides excellent protection and mobility (crabs are great swimmers) but throwing off its protective shell is the only way it can expand and grow.
During this soft shell phase, it is extremely vulnerable to predators. It can barely swim and tends to hang out in the tall grass by the shore. If it is lucky, no one will pick it up and put it in a frying pan.
Over time, the soft shell begins to harden, allowing the crab more mobility and a little more protection. At this point in its cyclical development, it’s called a leatherback. By the time the shell has hardened again, the crab is quite a bit larger and more powerful than it was before. Eventually, the new shell hardens to a point where the crab cannot continue to grow. It casts off this shell and the cycle repeats.
I’ve found that many times in our lives, we have to abandon the comfort and protection of our current surroundings in order to grow both emotionally and spiritually (the transition from elementary school to middle school and puberty comes to mind). We have to throw off the familiar, the comfortable and the stifling so that we can expand into who we are becoming. It’s scary and we feel vulnerable and disoriented without our familiar shell but that’s when we really grow. By the time we become accustomed to our new bodies (or surroundings), we are wiser and more powerful than we were before. Looking back, we see that the process was worthwhile and even necessary for us to be who and where we are now.
Of course, it doesn’t end there. The cycle repeats several times in the process of living, much the way it does for the blue crab and it’s not always a smooth process. Growth often happens that way — in spurts. We continue to expand even if it gets uncomfortable to do so. I can see why people say, “You’re either growing or you’re dying.”
I’d love to hear your comments on this or any other blog below.