I am a true mussel man. That is, when I feel threatened, I clam up. I shut myself up inside my shell. There I feel self-contained, needing nothing and no one. Hard on the outside, my soft internals thus protected – I have created my very own universe. And I am my own God.
I flexed my “musselness” just the other night. Something happened between my wife and me, something producing a negative emotion; hurt, disappointment, guilt. And so I decided to turn in early. I decided to burrow into bed and into my shell. I would go to close my lid and lay in darkness – there to froth and ferment.
But my plan hit a kink. My wife, not yet sensing my turmoil said sweetly, “You know, I’ll turn in early with you.”
Now I had to roll away from her, not an easy maneuver for an armless mollusk. But I managed and lay there cold, hard and impenetrable. I wasn’t trying to send a message, but my wife got it nonetheless. I wasn’t trying to make her feel alone; I just wanted space. I wasn’t trying to scare her; I just wanted to feel safe. I wasn’t trying to accomplish any of those things, but I succeeded in doing them all.
Here is my confession: Just when I need to be the most human, I devolve into a mussel. When I need to talk, I clam up. When I need to be open and vulnerable, I pull in and shut down. And when I clam up and shut down, I hurt people around me. It becomes all about me. Picture my wife lying there trying to snuggle with a giant nacreous bivalve clam and you immediately see my “shellfishness.”
But it really isn’t funny. And it is even worse than just hurting my wife. Far, far worse.
When I shut the doors to life, I am saying to my wife and to God – I don’t need you. Nor do I want you. I am my own. I do not need light or air or you. And tragically – I get what I set out to get: no light, no air, no one. I succeed beyond my wildest dreams… and beyond my most terrible nightmares. I succeed in making my own tiny universe where I am alone and shut off from light and air.
Roger Edwards joined The Barnabas Center in 1991. In addition to counseling individuals & couples, Roger teaches & leads discussion groups about applying the Bible to everyday life. He is a licensed professional counselor, holds a master’s degree in biblical counseling from Grace Theological Seminary in Indiana & earned a bachelor’s degree in engineering from UNCC. He is married to Jean, and they have seven children.