WARNING: If you are struggling with doubt today, this is NOT the post for you!By Lisa Huddleston
Although we usually visit the same beach every summer, it is never the same beach. Some years erosion has reshaped the brown sandy ribbon that lines the island’s coast. Some years there are lots of shells and jellyfish. Some years it is crowded with sunbathers and others not so much. Anyway, this was the year of the horseshoe crab. This year each time the tide receded, a whole population of copulation was left behind! It was uncomfortable and just a little distressing. I was fine with the activity of the crabs–that was between the two or three or more (!) of them–but what disturbed me was that so many crabs died in the hot, dry sun between high tides. Since I am not a marine biologist, this may not have been the case, but I did observe a lot of dead crabs. Well, they looked dead to me.
Because I am a caring soul, on the first couple of days of vacation, I spent a lot of time gingerly picking up the enormous crabs by their long pointy tails and scurrying on tip-toe to the water’s edge to let them escape back into the sea. Ugh–I shuddered and squealed the whole time I held them! But as the week progressed I saw the futility in my efforts and began not to care. The stupid crabs just got stranded over and over again (if not the same crabs, then their brothers and sisters.) It was hopeless.
Oddly enough this image came back to me this week as I talked with a friend about her experience helping with a Vacation Bible School at a local campground where many of the campers actually live in their tents on a full-time basis. She expressed her distress over the residents’ living conditions, and she and the rest of the team attempted to help as they could. But she realized that there was really little long-lasting help that could be given. She and I agreed that it was terribly frustrating to try to help those who cannot or will not help themselves, and together we sighed in resignation.
But for me it is more than simple resignation (I don’t want to speak for her.) It really makes me angry, and eventually that anger leads to despair. And not anger at those who are stuck in such terrible situations. Many are mentally ill, addicted, or poverty stricken. They are no more able to change than were my sex-starved horseshoe crabs. But God can change it all–if he is God (and I hope he is). He could pick up every dying crab and fling it back to sea. He could right every diseased mind and ease every longing and place every homeless soul in a family of love. But he doesn’t. In his omnipotence, omniscience, and omnipresence, he chooses to let us continue on. Crabs scurrying around other crabs until we dry up in the hot sun. (I know–we aren’t crabs, but human beings with minds and souls. It’s just an illustration.)
I don’t understand why. Not for a second. I know that Jesus came to save us all (i.e. to fling us back to the sea), but all are not saved. And I know that Jesus commissioned his followers to keep up his work of salvation in the power of the Holy Spirit. But still many (most?) are not saved. Some will point their fingers at me, accusing me of not being “missionary minded” enough, and I’m sure they are right. But I need convincing. And how can I convince others of what I am still so frequently in doubt?
And so I keep on. Scurrying through the days with the rest of the crabs. Helping those I can with what I can. And longing and seeking to know more than I do.
Oh Lord, help my unbelief so that I can truly help others, and please, protect me from the slings and arrows of my fellow pilgrims. Amen.
(I’m sure I’ll feel better tomorrow.)