Lobster and Learning about Religion

This time last week I was up to my elbows in butter, crushing a crustacean’s exoskeleton with a nut cracker and debating the merits of saving the claw for last. I tackled my very first lobster and it was a gourmet experience unlike any I have known before.

When our waitress delivered my lobster, I was stunned into silence by the most beautiful of reds, the decadent hue of a well-boiled feast from the sea. The moment I had anticipated all week had finally arrived, and I could not wait to get my hands dirty, waging war against the once mighty shell.

My victory march along the shellfish from top to tail was halted only by the horrors I discovered upon flipping it over. There is something truly satisfying about hunting the meat out of the nooks and crannies of a fresh lobster, but, once confronted by the spindly legs and sharp underside of the powerful tail, I found myself deflated.

I hate coming up against the sudden ugliness of even treasured possessions. My lobster wrangling was unforgettable, but in good and bad ways. I won’t forget the melt-in-your-mouth taste, but I am haunted by the harsh realities of plucking off limbs and sitting next to a bucket of ocean refuse.

A few days after the battle with my boiled prize, I sat around a bonfire with a few of my fellow advisors from my youth group. We talked about what it has been like at divinity school this year and why I wanted to pursue a degree in religion in the first place.

When I first considered enrolling at Yale Divinity School, I envisioned getting a great education while also growing stronger in my personal faith through conversations with future ministers and attendance at daily chapel. But I think somewhere in the back of my head I knew that no one was going to force me to flip the religion I studied over and dive into the underbelly. I could continue to admire it at arm’s length, like the perfect lobster when it was still in our waitress’s hands.

A graduate education in religion is something I wanted before I even knew what it would entail. And now that I am halfway through, I don’t regret signing on the dotted line, but I hate how easy I used to think it would be to find personal faith answers.

I can write you an essay about any religious topic, except maybe the kind of personal faith statement that I produced around this time a decade ago. I wanted to walk away from YDS presenting my own religious beliefs in a beautifully contained final package, but these last nine months have destroyed any sense of structure I once wore confidently.

And so, I still seek my own exoskeleton while struggling with the unsettling nature of the study of religion in the twenty-first century. I hope I will emerge as satisfied as I did from that lobster feast, but it may take a few more buckets of guts first.

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