Every now and then, I’ll hear or see a word and something about it strikes a chord in me. I read a passage from Richard Rohr’s newsletter, “…Jesus when he said, “Simon, you must be sifted like wheat and I will pray that you will not fail; and once you have recovered, you in turn can strengthen the brothers [and sisters]” (Luke 22:31-32″
Recover. What does this really mean?
I’ve always thought of it as getting over something or getting back to normal. But reading that text in the context of the 12 step in AA, recovery, I saw the image of a hermit crab who has left its shell to grow and goes in search of a larger shell to occupy. Between shells, it’s exposed and vulnerable. When it crawls into the new shell, at least for a time, it is safer to grow and survive. Eventually, it will have to leave again in search of a new shell.
Michael Cochise Young wrote a children’s story about a hermit crabs experience with this. I’ll never forget Michael’s face as she told me about her book. She was so animated as she told me about the little hermit crab who went in search of his shell, all the new creatures he met who guided him and taught him, new friends who came (and went), and all the emotions that were present during the search. Ironically, she and I both knew more adults would get more out of the story than kids.
As adults, we outgrow our experiences and we have to take the leap into the unknown in order to keep growing. I believe our shared purpose in life is to grow. For a time, we feel uncomfortable in our own skin- raw, vulnerable, exposed, unsafe. It’s scary. We can’t go back to the way things were, but even if we can see the other side, we have no clue how we’ll get there. Like the hermit crab, every wave crashing into us feels more intense, more dangerous for our survival as we’re tossed about in the unknown.
Perhaps it’s not at all about finding or regaining a normal state, perhaps it’s about stripping down the layers of illusion we built up as protection in order for the soul to grow. We first have to uncover before we can recover with something more authentic, more aligned with our soul.
In the in-between place of trying to recover, we have to be willing to be kind and gentle with ourselves. It’s a time of making a loving home for the parts of us ready to return home to our souls. In order for us to survive, these parts have been buried or sent away for safe keeping. Let’s face it, the shell we lived in was too damn small to contain all of our being. We need a bigger home for the totality of soul sans limitations that contract, cramp, and keep us smaller than we really are.
Between uncovering and recovering, we will be hit by some big waves and wonder, “Will I recover from this?” It may feel impossible. Remember, the simple nature of that question means you’re at least well on your way. Keep searching for your new “shell” with love, faith, trust in yourself, and the willingness to ask for help when you feel lost. There will always be someone there to help guide you if you ask. In between the waves, take a rest, catch your breath, feel the sunlight, and then keep moving, keep searching. This is a soul adventure you are on. Seek the beauty, even in the darkened places. Even here, there’s space for laughter. Your new shell is waiting for you, but have some fun along the way.
*I channeled this post. I saw the word recovered and immediately started writing. As I did, I was guided and I knew I was getting a clear message from the other side. I am in that raw, vulnerable, uncovered, seeking-my-new-shell place and I know I’m not alone. I am seeing it in a lot of people. One of my waves this week was Michael Cochise Young’s death. I think Michael needed a new shell. Try as she might, in her finite human body, she simply couldn’t help all the souls she loved at the same time. Now she can. So I am dedicating this post to her since I don’t think she ever published her book, though I suspect it will win a Pulitzer if it’s ever published. Infinite love+gratitude, Michael, for all the lessons you taught me, and clearly continue to teach me and so many others.