Saturday, 29 September 2012 23:01

The Turtle Effect

Written by Tim Patrick

While travelling last week, on two separate occasions, I observed a turtle slowly creeping across a road. Both times the same thing happened. When the turtle saw my car approaching each quickly withdrew into his shell. These incidents were a parable of truth to me. What did I learn?

The first lesson, you have to give the turtles credit for venturing to cross the road. They saw something worth pursuing across the road. There is an old saying “nothing ventured, nothing gained.” Am I venturing out and testing new terrain? We will never accomplish anything if we do not venture out.

A second lesson was somewhat humorous. Two turtles are strolling across the road. They realize danger is pressing in on them. They cannot run away so they withdraw to the security of their shell. Even though they felt secure in their shell, the truth is, the shell offered no security. Those turtles did not escape the danger. They escaped to the perceived security of the shell. However, the threat was still present. We may do the same thing. We withdraw when we perceive danger is present. We subconsciously convince ourselves that we have escaped the danger, only to emerge with the danger still present.

A third lesson grows out of the second. When we withdraw we are not solving the problem, we are merely avoiding it. When we come back it will still be there.  Obviously a turtle cannot reason or negotiate when it finds itself in dangerous circumstances. However, God has given us the ability to communicate, speak truth, and discuss issues with other people. We must be careful that we are not retreating and merely hiding our problems. Such avoidance often leads to depression and hidden emotions.

I remember an occasion when I became upset with a group of church leaders because of my disappointment with their attendance at a function. This disappointment was the culmination of several disappointing actions. Instead of communicating and trying to resolve the issue I withdrew into my shell. Was the danger still there? Did my withdrawal help anything? The answer is yes and no. The problem was still present when I withdrew into my shell. No, withdrawing did not help things. It was there when I came out.

A fourth lesson is that there is an appropriate time to retreat. Hiding from a car is inappropriate for the turtle because it accomplishes nothing. However, retreating when a dog comes snooping would be appropriate. Unfortunately, the turtle does not have the ability to discern when hiding is appropriate or inappropriate.

We may not be able to hide from problems. However, God gives us a way (like he has given the turtle a shell) to protect ourselves when threats come our way. As stated in the previous paragraph, there is an appropriate time to retreat. When Jesus faced the pressing demands of life He often retreated to a quiet place, such as a mountain or garden, to pray and spend time with God. As a man of God, I should learn the art of retreating. This should be built into my schedule.

Retreating becomes an exercise of faith. In retreating we carry our problems to God, relax, and ask Him to give us wisdom and strength. Retreating allows God to minister to us. Also, when we retreat we wait on the Lord. This is what Isaiah had in mind. “Yet those who wait for the LORD will gain new strength; they will mount up with wings like eagles, they will run and not get tired, they will walk and not become weary.” (Is. 40:31) Who knows, maybe the turtle is teaching us another lesson. Maybe he retreats into his shell to pray!

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