Lesson of the Crab


“I had a beautiful day alone at Pescade, in a fresh little cave that we had never found before.  My sermon was from a little crab perched on a rock below, which matched his light-brown shell exactly.  He was just as alive and just as happy whether basking the air and sunlight – or buried (as took place about every other minute) under a foot or two of water as a wave swept over him.  I could see him though the clear green-ness, quietly holding on below.  There is no place where it is difficult for Jesus to live. His life in us can be just as adaptable as the life He has given to this tiny creature.”      Journal 1893

It’s Thursday already and I have barely touched the projects intended for this week!  Coming off the high of travel and family vacation and the elastic hours of summer, I was ready to press forward, this week, with a new and disciplined schedule.

The Plan:  Address several back-burner writing assignments . . .  tackle major household projects. . .  catch up with my soul. . .

The Reality:  Attend backed up correspondence. . .  sift and sort piles of accumulated papers. . .  pick up bits and pieces of odds and ends (Fisher Price “people,”  doll boots and bonnets, and the remnants of grandchildren’s creative play) . . . clear a refrigerator cluttered with 3-weeks of unfinished food and drink. . .  and more. . .

Now the day is half-spent and productive working time has been swallowed by activities that can’t be tallied.  I tighten with inward pressure as I recalibrate the schedule to salvage the remaining hours.  I worry:  Will I meet my long-range deadlines if I can’t even keep up with the simple tasks of today?

Once again, I remind myself, it is not what I’m doing – or not doing – that defines the value of my work or worth.  It is who I am – whose I am – amidst all the clutter and seeming unproductivity of a given day.  Furthermore, it is less what I am doing and more how I”m doing the inevitable “next thing” on my limitless list of “to do’s.”

I almost skipped my time alone, today, with God.  Surely He understands.  I can still talk to Him (pray on the run, so to speak), I reasoned.  Moreover, my Scripture reading for today is in Habakkuk!  What does the gloomy prophet (a minor one at that!) have to say to me?!  But pause, I did, and he spoke directly to my heart:

The Sovereign Lord is my strength,

he makes my feet like the feet of a deer,

he enables me to go on the heights.

“There is no place where it is difficult for Jesus to live.”  He is present whether I’m “basking the air and sunlight” – ticking off one important thing after another in a super-productive life or whether I’m “buried under a foot or two of water” – washed by waves of unfinished tasks outwardly or discouragement inwardly.

The key is to be attentive to God.  Attentive to His leading. . . to His voice. . .  He is present.  Am I?  He speaks.  Am I listening?  Or has all the din and clatter of my cluttered life muted His word and blocked His presence in my life?  Wisdom of Francois Fenelon, from the 17th Century, rings true today:  “Be silent, and listen to God.  Let your heart be in such a state of preparation that his Spirit may impress upon you such virtues as will please him.  Let all within you listen to him.  This silence of all outward and earthly affection and of human thoughts within us is essential if we are to hear his voice.”

There is no place where it is difficult for Jesus to live.  His life in us can be just as adaptable as the life He has given the little crab – basking in air and sunlight or buried under a foot or two of water – if we attend.  If we are rooted and grounded in Him.

Just this week an event took place that commanded the attention of the most experienced-seasoned (hardened?) journalists. Little did Antoinette Tuff know what another ordinary day as a bookkeeper at a Georgia elementary school would hold.  But her heroic, clear-headed, compassionate dealing, single-handedly, with a deranged young man armed with over 500 rounds of ammunition, calmed him into peaceful surrender, saving God knows how many lives of students, faculty and police.  Within 24 hours she was a household name, a proclaimed heroine in a personal telephone conversation with the President of the United States of America.

Admitting her inner terror – “I was actually praying in the inside.  I was terrified but I was praying.” – she walked through this event, a  prime-time featured guest with CNN’s Anderson Cooper.

Cooper:  “I have heard you say that your pastor had talked about being anchored in the Lord.  Is that something that got you through?”

Tuff:  “Yes, he had just started this actual series, that Sunday on being anchored. . .   I had told myself Monday morning that I was going to get up and start studying in that morning.  But he had been talking about how you anchor yourself, not actually allowing life, the cares of the world to overwhelm you, but allowing yourself to be anchored.”

Cooper:  “That’s what it means to be anchored, to be rooted?”

Tuff:  “To be rooted and grounded in the Word.”

Cooper:  “That was good timing of that sermon.”

Tuff:  “Really good timing!”

Would this story have had a different outcome had she not been “anchored” – rooted and grounded – in the Lord?  Her life, by her own public admission, was not without challenges “devastating ” in nature.  But, she was a vessel God could use for purposes she could not divine.

What about me?  What am I missing when I keep plunging ahead with my frenetic activities – too busy, too distracted to attend?  What might God be able to do with my life – with any life – if only we listened to and attended His voice – anchored in Him?

Richard Foster sums the place where Jesus lives as a “sanctuary of the soul,” in his book by the same name.  “Throughout all life’s motions – balancing the checkbook, vacuuming the floor, visiting with neighbors or business associates – there can be an inward attentiveness to the divine Whisper.  The great masters of the interior life are overwhelmingly uniform in their witness to this reality. . .   We bring the portable sanctuary into daily life.”

There have been many reminders this week, amidst the clamor and clutter of living,  to cultivate that place “for Jesus to live” – through times set aside, when possible and, when not, to allow Him room to adapt within me, in the “portable sanctuary” of my heart.

“So then, just as you received Christ Jesus as Lord,

continue to live in him,

rooted and built up in him,

strengthened in the faith as you were taught,

and overflowing with thankfulness.”

Colossians 2:6

Painting: Journal 1893

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8 Responses to Lesson of the Crab

  1. Lynn Morrissey says:

    I’ve heard that phrase before, sanctuary of the soul, and didn’t know to whom it was attributed. Funny. I was just dragging out some old sheet music and sang a Billy Joel song (unusual for me, being a classically trained vocalist) called “And So It Goes.” The opening line reads, “In every heart there is a room, a sanctuary safe and strong.” It’s not a Christian song, but I love this truth. And you are so right, that because Christ lives in us through His Holy Spirit, He goes wherever we do and our sanctuary goes with us. Miss Tuff knew the power of seeking God in the inner sanctuary–praying on the inside while all hell was breaking lose on the outside. And God Almighty heard. And God the Deliverer answered. Surely, she could say with the Psalmist: “I have seen you in the sanctuary and beheld your power and your glory.” When we skip sanctuary time, we miss the opporunity to behold Him. Miriam, thank you for such an important reminder.

  2. Floyd says:

    Don’t know how I would have handled that scary situation… probably not the same Godly wise way… It’s good to be like the crab… just hanging on below the surface of the storms… God is good to the weaker souls… Much to contemplate… Thanks! And thanks to Lynn for the link…

  3. Bobb Biehl says:


    Have already pass this on … you have an incredible ministry of “God oriented insight”!


  4. Jill says:

    Thank you for you observations and sharing. I had not heard about Tuff’s witness. It encouragement to read how she spoke about and lived her faith.
    Bless you and your writing!

    • mhrockness says:

      Thank you, Jill. I must say, just hearing A. Tuff express her profound faith on national primetime and, observing the respect given her testimony, was an encouragement to me: not only in how God equips us for His Purposes but also how He uses the same for His Glory!

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