Sunday, April 24, 2016

What Molting Has Taught Me

I have been studying THIS TALK from General Conference. And here is what I am learning.

Molting is like like repentance. It doesn’t happen just once in a lifetime, it happens over and over and over again. Most living creatures go through a molting/shedding process that not only allows new skin to replace old skin, it allows the new skin to develop with the growing, changing body.

The word molt is derived from the Latin word “mutuare” which means to “to be shed” or “to change.”

For example, dogs shed their fur twice a year. Spring to get rid of their thick, winter coat; fall to get ready for the thick, winter fur to come back in.

Birds molt. Some birds, such as ducks, swans, and pelicans, molt ALL their feathers at the same time and remain vulnerable for a two week period and cannot fly during this time. Other birds partially molt. Their feathers are gradually lost and replaced. For some breeds, this molting process takes several years. Molting keeps birds in their top flying condition.

Reptiles shed. Snakes shed their skin in one piece, while lizards shed their skin in patches. Depending on age and rate of growth, shedding takes place on a regular basis and is usually facilitated as a reptile rubs against hard twigs or stones.

Arthropods (crabs, lobsters, krill, arachnids) grow an exoskeleton and regularly molt when the body has outgrown the outer shell. Arachnids regularly grow and their molting period is usually accompanied by long periods of fasts and reclusiveness. In arthropods, the new exoskeleton is soft and begins to harden after the molting has taken place. A butterfly’s cocoon is a form of molt.

Amphibians shed regularly. Some shed every three months (once a season) and the process takes a day. Most amphibians eat their skin after it has been shed.

Humans shed. We shed dead skin everyday – over a million skin cells every 24 hours! The process of getting a new layer of skin takes about a month. The skin we have right now is not the same skin we had a 30 days ago!

I find it interesting that it is natural for the bodies of living creatures to change. Almost without us doing anything, our bodies find ways to become new: new skin, new hair, new fingernails. We do virtually nothing to facilitate these changes. They are a natural and phenomenal part of being alive.

Repentance is a process just like molting. Elder Vinas reminds me that, “It is important that we realize that just like the remission of sins, repentance is a process and not something that happens at one particular moment. It requires consistency in each of its steps (italics added).”

Much like molting, there is a process that happens before new skin is made and old skin is replaced. Yet, unlike the natural occurrence of shedding or molting, repentance needs to be sought after, continued, and regularly (daily) applied. Elder Vinas teaches, “The moment we begin to remember Him and keep His commandments every day—and not just on the Sabbath day—is when the remission of our sins begins to gradually take effect and His promise of having His Spirit with us begins to be fulfilled.”

I think about the birds that molt all their feathers as once and have to stop flying for a short period of time. Sometimes, that is what is required of me when I have had to go through certain periods of repentance. I have been blessed that stronger, feathered birds have protected me during these vulnerable times so that I had enough time to grow back my wings to fly.

I also think about the shedding of snakes and lizards. Sometimes repentance cannot be complete until I face and acknowledge issues that are very hard and very difficult. Shedding myself of practices or attitudes that have caused hurt to others or habits that have been long embedded into my soul can only be brought out and sloughed off with the help of others as they pull me and push me through the necessary rough terrains, leaving me to feel bruised and broken for a while.

Much like arthropods, repentance makes way for the development of a new structure on which I can build. Periods of fasting and finding quiet places of solitude to ponder and receive divine guidance assists me in the process. Eventually, the correct process of repentance transforms me, and I enjoy flying more than I enjoy hanging around. Repentance makes me more at home as a butterfly than wrapped up in a cocoon.

Then there are those amphibians - eating their skin. Sometimes, repentance requires that I swallow my pride. All of it. In one big gulp.

I am learning, ever learning, that the replacement of my spiritual skin (repentance), gives an opportunity for me to have moments when I can see God reflected in my countenance. Repentance gives me the desire for His Spirit to influence more of my spirit more often than it does. Repentance gives me more hope in His goodness, in His grace, and in His holiness.

I may not be able to change the world, but through repentance and faith on the Lord, I can certainly change myself. I can become a very good molter!

Check out these cool websites about molting and shedding:
National Geographic
Reptile Skin Shedding
About Birds

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