Another day I saw one as I was stopped at a stop sign. Just as I stopped another car came driving down the road. Just in time that turtle retreated to his shell, and he was good. I breathed a sigh of relief. Then I wondered why the thing was crossing the road to start with. Where was he going anyway? As I pondered that deep, thought provoking question I realized that it didn't matter where he was going. The important thing was that he was going somewhere.
As I watched that turtle jerk back inside of it's shell it occurred to me that he could just stay there. I don't think he had an appointment to keep or anything. But he had already started that journey and he needed to finish it.
Have you ever started a journey only to find yourself a bit overwhelmed in the midst of it? Taken just enough steps to get you moving and then think, 'Crud, I can't do this.' But there is really no turning back. Because maybe you have also developed a thick, hard shell of protection, but if you retreat back into it, you're stuck. You're protected. You may be able to avoid injury. But in that shell, you can't grow.
I've spent many years building my shell. Insulating myself. Every negative comment, every uncomfortable conflict, every painful realization. I've grown that shell. And then, I've hidden in it. Someone hurts my feeling, I'm outta here. I have to say something somebody else doesn't want to hear, see ya later! I have to deal with hard life stuff, better equip this shell with cable.
But, something has happened in the last year for me. I started crossing the road. I had to come out of that shell. I got a job as an advocate, a word whose very definition includes: http://oxforddictionaries.com/us/definition/american_english/advocate). I have been forced to deal with tough, uncomfortable situations that did not win me any friends or popularity contests. But they were important things that had to be handled regardless of how hard they were. In recognizing the importance of dealing with hard things, I realized how important it is that I deal with the hard things in my own life. To be honest, sometimes the shell just starts to get too small.
Our verse for VBS this year was 2 Timothy 1:7- "For God did not give us a spirit of fear, but of power and of love, and of a sound mind." The motto was: Facing fear, trusting God! A few weekends ago Sarah went to a party for her dance company. It was at her teacher's house and she lives on the water. Last year some of the girls had gone tubing and Sarah refused. She was scared. This year as we got ready for the party she told me, "I am not going tubing!" Well, sure enough I got a text from a friend who was bringing Sarah home for me saying, "They're going tubing!" My reply? "Sarah is?!?!" Yep. She did. And had so much fun she wanted to go again. Later she told me, "I just kept saying the VBS motto. Facing fear, trusting God." And I could imagine my little PK out there quoting that motto. :) But I was proud. And excited for her that her fear didn't ruin her fun. It seems like a little thing, but it is learning to trust God in those little things that help us trust Him in the big things.
The part of 2 Timothy 1:7 that stood out for me the most was the part that says God has given us a sound mind. I've read and heard that verse so many times in my life, but I've always focused on the power part. Not being fearful is to have power, right? But it's not just that. Fear isn't just about snakes or flying or boogeymen. It's not just about roller coasters or tubing or wearing a bathing suit in public. (What, am I the only one with that fear?) Fear is not dealing with things because of what other people will think. Fear is allowing people to hurt you because you don't want to hurt them by standing up to them. Fear is staying exactly where you are-physically, mentally, emotionally and spiritually-because you can't handle what is on the other side of the road or you don't know if you will survive the journey across. Fear is hiding in a shell while your mind is filled with anxiety and stress and confusion. And according to 2 Timothy 1:7, it's not of God.
Sometimes I feel like a turtle trying to cross the road. Like I'm moving at the slowest pace possible while huge, scary things fly by me as fast as they can go. Sometimes my shell protects me, but only for a little while until it is time to get moving again. I wish the journey was easier. That I could learn to move faster or that the obstacles on the road would stop, at least long enough for me to cross. But regardless of how long it takes me or how scary it is, I know I have to keep moving because it's no longer safe for me to stay where I was. It's not healthy. It's not God's plan. You see, we have been through a time (or 2 or 3) when God has physically moved us to fulfill His plan. But sometimes, He moves us spiritually, mentally and emotionally to the place we need to be to accomplish His plan. Whatever change He has in mind, there will be change. I have yet to find a place in Scripture where someone encountered God or Jesus and were told, "Hey dude, you're great. Don't change! Stay just the way you are, you are so cool!" Because none of us are exactly where we need to be, and that's why we need a Savior. He is the reason we are on this journey, and anything that causes us to draw ourselves into our shells and puts a halt on the journey keeps us from reaching the place He desires for us. The place where fear is replaced with power, love and a sound mind.
Keep crossing the road.