Following a recent vacation to Ocean City, NJ, we have 2 new residents in our house - a pair of hermit crabs (and I don't mean me and Erin). If you would like to know why having hermit crabs makes me a good father, you can check out a sermon from Father's Day here. The crabs are quite originally named Hermie and Pincher. Hermie seems to be thriving; Pincher not so much. In fact, last night while trying to encourage my son that Pincher was doing a little better, one of his legs fell off (Pincher's not my son's). Upon some research, my wife discovered that this can be a sign of stress in hermit crabs, but they can grow a new leg.
Which got me to thinking. What if our stress showed like it does in hermit crabs? Husband comes home from work on crutches, missing a leg. Wife: "Stressful day at work, dear?" Or the husband comes home to a messy house, screaming kids, and his wife making dinner one-armed. "Oooh. Kids too much today? Don't worry; after a few days away on our vacation next week, that should grow back." (I mean no disrespect to genuine amputees.)
So manifestations of stress might not be quite so dramatic in humans, but they are certainly as obvious and predictable: a short temper with your spouse or kids; feelings of anxiety; an inability to sleep even though you're exhausted; shortness of breath; despair; weight gain/weight loss; a decline in health; or that crazy look in your eyes.
So when you or someone else notices symptoms of stress in your life, what to do? I don't intend to be exhaustive here, so just two suggestions. And these aren't rocket science; I wonder sometimes if we don't spend time looking for a silver bullet while ignoring the plain teaching of scripture. "Oh, I know that already," or "that's too basic; my problems are more complex." If we know it already, why aren't we doing it? "Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus" (Philippians 4:6-7). You know that, but have you actually prayed with thanksgiving in this particular stressful situation?
The other suggestion? Well, even a hermit crab knows this. Apparently hermit crabs are actually quite social creatures and don't do well alone (I know, I know. Hermit?) Christians are designed this way too. We need fellowship; we need the church. And I understand that fellowship is much more than just social interaction. Our stress is a bit more complex than a crab's too. You need fellow Christians to walk along side you, to bear your burdens, to rejoice when you rejoice, and weep when you weep. What a joy that Jesus hasn't left us without recourse when life is stressful. Don't try to face it on your own. Don't be a hermit.
UPDATE: Pincher died and has been replaced with hermit crab from the local pet store. Apparently you don't have to go all the way to the Ocean to find yourself a hermit crab.
2018 UPDATE: We now have no hermit crabs in our house and have not had them for a long time. We do have one more person in our home than we did back then. I'll take child #5 over a hermit crab any day, and he teaches us just as much as those little crustaceans.
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