Two very different creatures, but God used them both to encourage Jennifer Rees Larcombe when she was feeling discouraged and forgotten ...
Outside my sitting room window I have a bird table supported by a tall, iron pole. I keep it thickly coated with slippery Vaseline, hoping to discourage squirrels. Not long ago I was struggling with a deep sense of disappointment. For years I’ve prayed for someone close to me, but he just seemed to drift further away from God. Finally, I began to wonder if it was worth wasting any more time praying when God did not seem to be listening.
Then early one morning, I was sitting in my rocking chair with that first glorious mug of tea, when I noticed a very small mouse trying to climb the pole to get his breakfast. He would struggle up a few inches and then slither all the way back down. Over and again he kept trying, each time managing to reach just a little bit higher up the pole. Suddenly there he was – up on the table eating away happily, eyed suspiciously by a rather startled robin.
“OK, Lord,” I muttered. “I get the point.”
Leafing through my Bible, I found the place where Jesus is teaching his followers to pray the Lord’s Prayer. He then adds a story illustrating the importance of persisting in prayer and finishes off by telling us all to “ask and go on asking” (Luke 11:10 Amp). So I’ve been following the little mouse’s example ever since, and I think I’m beginning to see some encouraging signs.
So what about the lobster?
I hate change. I only feel safe in my familiar rut, routine and surroundings. So when something which felt as disruptive as an earthquake hit my life, I simply did not know how to cope without the people and landmarks I had come to rely on.
“What possible reason could you have, God, for letting this happen to me?” I kept demanding. I believe he answered me one evening as I watched a TV documentary on lobsters. Apparently their soft little bodies could never survive in the sea without a tough outer shell to hold them together. But while this ‘armour’ protects, it also traps them. They cannot grow larger unless, regularly throughout their 70-year-long lifespan, they wriggle out of their shells and wait until their soft skin hardens into a new, larger shell.
Writhing out of the old shell is so painful and exhausting that 15% of lobsters die in the attempt; and waiting around for their new shell leaves them dangerously vulnerable to predators. “Poor lobsters” I thought sympathetically, as they showed pictures of the poor naked things hiding in muddy holes. “That’s just what I feel like doing right now!”
The good news seemed to be that each ‘moult’ causes the lobster to develop new and much more powerful leg muscles. Pictures also showed an elderly lobster, who had obviously survived so many moults he had grown enormous and finally dwarfed a 6ft tall fisherman.
Then, suddenly, an idea hit me. If, in order to grow, it was necessary for a lobster to go through such traumatic change, then perhaps God wanted to grow something in me through my upheaval? I could certainly do with some new spiritual ‘leg muscles!’
Then I remembered that it is my faith that pleases God most (Hebrews 11:6), so might he be trying to use this chaos to help me grow more dependent on him? Perhaps the only way I could ever discover for certain that he could be trusted to be with me in the ‘valley of the shadow’ is by letting me walk through the darkness and realise he really was there to help me? Learning that would mean I never need ‘fear the evil’ of change again.
The new looking life that emerged out of my ‘earthquake’ is now so satisfying and fruitful that I honestly wonder why I ever made so much fuss! God brought me so much closer to himself through that time, and achieved so many good things through it that I wasn’t surprised, recently, when I discovered one more fascinating fact about lobsters. The older they get, and the more shell changes they survive, the more fertile and fruitful they become.
So my thanks to all lobsters and my promise never to eat you again! And the next time I see a mouse in my kitchen I’ll try not to scream.
+Jennifer Rees Larcombe has a long-established prayer, healing, speaking and writing ministry, Beauty from Ashes, based in Kent