The Shell Game is symbolic of three stages in life: early childhood development, reaching your prime and going through a mid-life crisis. As a child, a lack of confidence, fear and insecurities cause many young people to hide who they really are. When afraid, frightened or threatened, most turtles seek shelter under their shell, disappearing and hiding underneath until its safe to come out. Likewise, human beings possess a similar defense mechanism, withdrawing from society until assurance, confidence and hope is restored.
Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing, James 1:2-4.
In the early years, stuttering prevented me from ever expressing myself clearly as a child. Being made fun of, mocked and teased was too much to endure. These attacks against what I could not control led me to live a private life until my teenage years, participating in solitary play, imagining what it would be like for me to talk without stuttering. After my dad was transferred from New Jersey to Delaware, a neighborhood of kids helped me come out of my proverbial shell. Friends like Jeanette, Steven and Richie overlooked my stuttering, seeing a potential that no one else had prior.
More than that, we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us, Romans 5:3-5.
By the beginning of my senior year of high school, my faith in Christ, amazing friends and an unquenchable fire for life transformed me. This one year served as a catalyst to do things I never imagined possible. Despite periods of stammering, God inspired me to become a youth pastor, high school teacher and invest the prime of my life coaching, mentoring and sharing my faith with others. During this fifteen year period, I was filled with unswerving faith that allowed me to experience the abundant life, witness miracles and experience a spiritual awakening within Columbus, Indiana. Unfortunately, at some point in the last fifteen years, I have reverted back to playing the shell game, trying to hide the person that I have become.
Beloved, do not be surprised at the fiery trial when it comes upon you to test you, as though something strange were happening to you. But rejoice insofar as you share Christ’s sufferings, that you may also rejoice and be glad when his glory is revealed, 1 Peter 4:12-13.
At some point in life, whether you call it a mid-life crisis or the painful reality that you’re not the same person that you use to be, this fact is hard to swallow. Recently, I have tried to go back in time, to see where I went wrong. When you don’t have the energy, drive or passion anymore, its hard to make progress or fix the flaws that are obviously present in my life. What makes matters worse is seeing a shell of the person that you used to be and feel powerless to alter, change or repair the damage done. If you reach this stage in life like me, Jesus is the only one who can mend your pain. While restoration is a long process with bumps along the way, Jesus is like Med-Express, available at any time you need medical and spiritual attention. As this endless shell games presses on, reach out to Jesus, who will hold your hand through the storms of life. May this blog comfort your soul as you endure the good, the bad and the ugly in the shell game called life.
by Jay Mankus