Going up the dirt road to the farm this week I met a snapping turtle. He(or she) was crossing when i stopped to get a closer look. At first he did his best to continue on ignoring me, then as I came closer he turned to prepare for an attack that never came. For some reason I remembered the scene from Voyage of the Dawn Treader, “Beware the oppressor, He’s very oppressive!” The Dufflepuds warn Lucy.
To the turtle I seemed a very likely oppressor, but just as in CS Lewis’ book, I was in fact not at all interested in harming him. In the Bible there is a story that in some ways conveys the picture of a servant with the same kind of thinking.
He also who had received the one talent came forward, saying, ‘Master, I knew you to be a hard man, reaping where you did not sow, and gathering where you scattered no seed, so I was afraid, and I went and hid your talent in the ground. Here you have what is yours.’ Matthew 25:24-25
In the turtle I saw a reflection of my own short-sightedness, defensiveness and fear in my relationship with God. I look fearfully about in those moments when I feel Him coming closer and sometimes try to take refuge in my own shell. When I am cornered I sometimes snap out at people around me. But in place of being safe in my shell, instead I thrash about like Peter when he got his eyes off of Jesus and he began to sink beneath the waves. Thank God that in the same way Jesus reached out immediately when Peter called for help, so also He hears my cry and comes to my rescue. Just like Peter, God’s grace reaches me and together he brings me safely back to His boat.
What a friend we have in Jesus
Al our sins and griefs to bear
What a privilege to carry
Everything to God in prayer
One Spring day, When our boys were small I once brought them home a box turtle that I had found trying to cross the road. They were so excited when I introduced them to Mr Turtle. He was such a wonder. Beautiful colors under the shell and quite docile. We made up a nice box for him, with a water dish, some grass and stones.
But our little turtle friend wanted nothing to do with his new home. He never once drank the water we provided or ate a single piece of the food we tried giving him. In fact each day he grew weaker till by the end of the week he simply lay with his head and feet tucked into his shell. I tried bathing him in water, thinking that would help but nothing seemed to work. By Saturday my wife and felt that since he was dying the most merciful thing we could do was to return him to his swamp to spend his final days at home.
How guilty we felt as we drove the car with our boys out to the edge of town.They were so sad to think that Mr Turtle was leaving, but we gently explained that he was near death and that his only chance was to be set free.
I parked the car at the side of the road and gently took out the cardboard box that had served as his home that week The boys hung back watching as I walked a few paces into the woods, and then bent down and carefully placed Mr Turtle onto the mossy ground and stepped back.
For a moment he remained as motionless as he had been over the previous 24 hours, then slowly almost miraculously one foot, then another popped out of the shell. Soon his tiny claws touched the ground and he poked out his head, Mr Turtle then suddenly stood up took one last look and clambered down the hill as fast as his little turtle legs could carry him! We all burst out in relieved laughter. He had just needed to be set free.
On a dark hill two thousand years ago our Savior walked up Calvary’s hill seemingly destined only for death. He was imprisoned by the guards, then the nails and the crown of thorns. There seemed no hope of life for our Savior. Even the stone rolled over the entrance to his tomb was sealed and guarded. But through His death Jesus was brought to the place where he would find his greatest victory. Early in the morning while it was still dark on the third day, he placed first one foot, then the other on the ground. He sat up and unrolled the cloth from his head. On that first Easter as Jesus walked out of the tomb, He gained freedom that would never be taken away, but unlike our turtle friend, Jesus didn’t just run off to heaven to enjoy His new-found life. Jesus came to give to us freedom from sin and death! What will you do with His gift of new life today?
Early on the first day of the week, while it was still dark, Mary Magdalene went to the tomb and saw that the stone had been removed from the entrance John 20:1