I grew up on the shores of the East Coast. But don’t get any ideas of white sandy beaches and palmetto trees. I did all my swimming on the south end of New York Harbor, on the Jersey side. The water was always nasty—dark and murky, and often with some kind of oil, tar, or scum floating on top.
But the creepiest thing about swimming in New York Harbor was the horseshoe crabs. Every early summer these prehistoric-looking creatures would crawl along on the bottom of swimming areas, terrorizing anyone who stepped on them. During the flood tides of a full moon, these monsters would swarm onto the beaches, a small one clinging to a big one, to lay their eggs.
These horseshoe crabs were hideous to look at. Their shell was a dark greenish brown and had rows of thorns or “teeth” along its back edge. And it wagged about a long, jagged, sword-like tail. Pick it up by its tail and you’d find that its underside is even uglier—a mass of flailing legs and gills. Hundreds and thousands of these worthless and purposeless creatures would die and litter the beach from one end to the other. Their decaying bodies filled the air with a smell so putrid that it defied description and bred biting gnats that made the beach a hellish place to be.
Naturally, I grew up with nothing but contempt for these nasty things. But I thought to myself, “Why did God, Who is capable of creating such beauty, ever make such an unadorned and loathsome animal?” I have since learned that horseshoe crabs have served some menial purposes as fertilizer and as chum and bait for fishing. “Is that their purpose—to be ground up and used as a substitute for manure? Surely, they can’t be good for anything else!”
Yet in recent years medical science has vindicated the horseshoe crab beyond anyone’s wildest dreams. Research scientists discovered that the horseshoe crab is immune to virtually all infectious microorganisms. They never get sick and can live unusually long lives. The secret to their impregnable immune system is in their blood. The blue blood of the horseshoe crab contains a substance called Limulus amebocyte lycate (LAL) which destroys all toxin-producing microorganisms. Consequently, LAL has become the most effective substance in detecting the presence of endotoxins in living things, making it invaluable for medical research and the treatment of disease.
The demand for horseshoe crab blood continues to grow every year and has already spawned a $50 million-per-year industry. Medical science has only scratched the surface of this humble animal’s potential benefit to humanity, but even today a single quart of horseshoe crab blood brings a price of over $15,000! What I once loathed and scorned as worthless has become a goose that lays golden eggs.
Hidden Potential of Humans
The longer I live the more convinced I am that a hidden potential for goodness and greatness lies within every human being. Too many of us write ourselves (or others) off as worthless and useless. We feel we’re incapable of making any contribution to society—as I once thought about the horseshoe crab. But, like the crab, we have not yet discovered the priceless gift within us that will someday enrich and bless our world.
Our heavenly Father has made us all for a wonderful purpose and has gifted us to fulfill that purpose. Do not give up hope for yourself—or others. God can help you discover your gifts and immeasurable value. He can lead you on the path to a productive and happy life. Open your heart to Him. He will bless you and make you a blessing. “Trust in the LORD with all your heart and do not lean upon your own understanding. In all your ways, seek to know Him more, and He will make your paths straight” (Prov. 3:5–6).
Dear Father in heaven, I place my life in Your all-loving and all-capable hands. Please help me to understand my value to you and to the world. Please make me a blessing to others and fulfill Your purpose in my life. Amen.