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Cape Town Diary. Part 4. 05 May 2009

Phil Oct 2008

Beware of Hermit Crabs!

I wanted to climb back down Table Mountain

but Tom insisted on the cable car and the two females didn’t complain about that. Why is it ever the same?
The women take a united stand against the men even when its mother and daughter against father. Occasionally I can manipulate one female onto my side.
When Heather does her usual ‘elongating of the conversation’ trick, Amy deserts her like lightning. An example? Let us take the booking of a overnight safari trip the next day while the kids wait in the car …

Heather: “Hi, we’d like to book a safari trip.”
Female Assistant: “Certainly Madam, how long for and when?
Heather: “Well, for two days including an overnight stop and hopefully Monday and Tuesday.”
“Just the two of you?”
“No, there’s our children; Amy’s fifteen and Tom is eight. They’re waiting in the car, probably fighting.”
The Assistant grins (bad move).
“They get on quite well I suppose considering the difference in age and such strong personalities. They’re loving being here in Africa though, so different to England …”

“Groan”. The guttural howl of a condemned man escapes my lips. Sure enough, the trading of personal stories bounce off the two new friends and I’m fidgeting by the counter, forming a sick and demented smile when occasionally referred to. As the minutes tick slowly by and all zest for life ebbs away, I manage to seize an opportunity to check on the kids’ wellbeing. A malicious grin lights up my face at the sight of their fuming faces.

“Do you realise how hot I am?” complains Amy. “Where’s Mum?” gripes Tom.
“Still in there, talking; exchanging pleasantries to be more precise. Last I heard, she was telling a dear lady about your schools.”

The replies of pure indignation and anger satisfy me somewhat, so I add that she’ll be ages and return to the office to inform Heather that the kids are fine. I love these rare occasions in life when I am not the object of protest.
Finally the ordeal is over and it’s off to the nearby beach. As we step onto golden sand, a menacing sign informs us that swimming is at our own risk. However, this is not a light-hearted tip that the Indian Ocean is surprisingly cold, but something far more sinister.

“Shark spotters are on duty to warn swimmers about sharks in the area. The following flags provide important information.
White flag: Shark spotter on duty and visibility is good.
Black flag: Shark spotter on duty but visibility is poor.
Red flag: A shark has been spotted in the area in the last two hours. Swimmers are advised to be cautious.
White flag with black shark on it and siren activated: A shark is currently in the area. Swimmers are advised to stay out of the water.
No flag: No shark spotter on duty.”

Tom is not impressed. “Why have you brought me here?” he demands. Being an avid observer of wildlife TV programs, he even knows these monsters can surf the waves, skid onto the beach and gobble you up. It is ironic that with eyes glued on the crashing waves for any sign of fin, it is something most small that gets him: a hermit crab the size of a pasta shell in fact. With a yelp of pain he is holding his toe and blaming mum for the outrage.

It’s an interesting thought that it’s hardly ever the great monster Satan or one of his scary demons that damages a Christian, but rather something much smaller.
Throughout the many years of faith, most of my struggles have been to do with everyday issues of obedience.
Sharing my faith, finding the words and standing firm on God’s word has not been as hard as the attempt to keep my word and lay my life at the feet of Jesus. I thought it was mostly about fighting sharks but in reality it’s the hermit crabs that have been the most active.

Statistically, shark attacks are really low, yet sharks attract the imagination and media attention. No one really cares much about hermit crabs hidden in the sand. I do. They blunt my spirit and set me back: selfish living damages your spiritual health. It’s not about legalism, having to do this and that to earn God’s pleasure, it’s about needing to do this and that to enjoy God’s grace. “You shall know the truth and the truth shall set you free”.

I am most happiest when taking pleasure in the things that God takes pleasure in. The hermit crabs are the spoilers, the party poopers. I am still very capable of doing things that God hates. They seem preferable at the time, but I am well-tuned enough into God’s spirit to know they are really nasty little nips into our friendship and yet stupidly I still do them! He wants me more conformed into his image and I want me more conformed into his image! Why, because that’s the real deal, it’s where the party is and it’s about giving attention to the nasty little nippers who lie in wait everyday.

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