An illustration of a man holding up his own shell, looking lonesomely over at a lonely woman making a small fire outside of her own shell

Shell-Less Living and the Shell-Crusher

Sometimes we need to take a great, terrible, long fall from a comfortable perch. It’s the only thing that will crack and crush the shell we never needed in the first place, but we created and clung to out of fear and the comfort of familiarity.


God knew it was the only way we would change.


Even if it took years for us to build, the forever-damage reveals the shell’s inherent worthlessness and our vulnerable, pink flesh. Through the crumble we feel the tingle of air hitting skin for the first time in a long time. It is both unbearable and glorious. Vulnerable. Unmasked. Unencumbered.


I’ve never felt so alive, and yet I still have this driving propensity within to cover myself right-back-up-again. So easily weighed down, all-over-again, by a cumbersome shell that feels like home. It is familiar “security” I can see. This process of re-calcification is a great temptation, and it usually begins to take form slowly, layer-by-layer:


Faith…and money.
Faith…and money…and a spouse.
Faith…and money…and a spouse…and a nice car.
Faith…and money…and a spouse…and a nice car…and good, healthy kids.
Faith…and money…and a spouse…and a nice car…and good, healthy kids…and a fat retirement account.


The list of “musts” builds up and so does my heavy shell. It’s not that these are bad things to have in life; it’s just that the tight clench of “must-have” is what must break.

“…The righteous will live by faith.” – Romans 1:17B NIV

We wonder why we are crushed over-and-over again. Though we are tempted to curse Him for the crushing, perhaps we can reframe these painful memories into moments of His greatest mercy. For Christ calls us to shell-less living, knowing that in it is our greatest freedom and joy.


“Each time I tried to close up what had been opened. It was a reflex, natural enough. But the lesson was, of course, the other way. The lesson was to never close again.” – Mark Nepo, The Book of Awakening

“Truly my soul finds rest in God; my salvation comes from him. Truly he is my rock and my salvation; he is my fortress, I will never be shaken.” – Psalm 62:1-2 NIV

Extra Resources

The Broken-Open Heart, Living with Faith and Hope by Parker J. Palmer“In its simple physical form, the cross embodies the notion that tension can pull the heart open. Its cross-beams stretch out four ways, pulling against each other left and right, up and down. But those arms converge in a center, a heart, that can be pulled open by that stretching, by the tensions of life—a heart that can be opened so fully it can hold everything from despair to ecstasy. And that, of course, is how Jesus held his excruciating experience, as an opening into the heart of God.” – by Parker J. Palmer, The Broken-Open Heart, Living with Faith and Hope


“We were designed to be free, and in some ways, life is a continual struggle to gain, regain and live out our freedom from internal and external forces that would take our freedom away.” – Dr. Henry Cloud


“The calling God has for us is so much greater than a comfortable life.” – Matt Brown


“God breaks the heart again and again and again until it stays open.” – Hazrat Inayat Khan