“Shell”-ter for one burnin’ turtle.
The saucer-sized shell looked quite like a rock, completely static, a great effort in invisibility. Panting from my jog, I paused to take a closer look. It was definitely a turtle shell, earth colored with neat rows of square-shaped divots protruding out like bulging eyes. The shell’s pattern was similar to that of a hand grenade of all things. I looked under the shell for a long tail and saw nothing. Not a snapper then. I picked him up, turning his yellow underside toward the sun, hoping he wasn’t dead.
The chances were good that he would soon be if he wasn’t already, poised vulnerably like camouflaged against this scorching cycling path, and just a crash landing away from an active children’s playground.
Turtles like water. I thought. I know a stream a bit further up the path.
Holding his entire world in my right hand, I walked him the short distance to the shaded trickle of water flow; holding him out with an extended arm, wondering if he could see the strange view of the ground, feel the fear of moving fast and high above it like turtles aren’t used to.
I spoke to him to reassure him like only a small child could really get away with…then trudged on tiptoes into the swampy muck that surrounded a shallow stream. Having placed the nose of the shell just touching the water’s surface, I ambled backward in my runners the length of one young oak tree limb, and waited. I didn’t want to leave until I knew I’d helped him.
Two minutes passed, then three…No head poked. No toes moved. No tail emerged. Nothing. Maybe he was already dead. I had to know. I crunched through the dry summer twigs toward the still shell to find out for sure.
As my right foot reached his vicinity, the shell came to life in a courageous dive – bloop! – into the water he flew. Transformed into a sudden submarine, he was now sunken – surely with a watchful eye on me. Safe, swimming and suspicious he treaded liquid with four stumpy legs in graceful underwater strokes.
Seeing that he’d been safely delivered, I continued my jog with a light heart, thinking that maybe this is how God works. While the divine lifts us and transports us to a place we find familiar and comforting, we must trust it, even though the road to our destiny feels foreign and unfamiliar. I thought about what a good job that turtle did, never once poking his legs out to struggle against me as I took him in my hands. Nor did he surge his head out of his shell to try to control what was going on. He just stayed still and waited…and trusted.
I’d like to think the turtle knew he didn’t have to struggle to get to the stream in the heat all by himself. Maybe he understood that there was an easier way. I’ll bet he was praying for rescue. Who knows, maybe God brought me to the turtle as an answer to his prayer.
God works in strange ways…I imagine the universal force also brought me there to get me thinking – perhaps to remind me that I don’t have to do it all by myself, either. I can just as well choose not to struggle in an uncomfortable spot, but instead be still and pray, trusting and letting go, confident in the certitude of my own version of crystal clear relief.