There he stood, or rather laid, stranded in the middle of the highway, too afraid of moving forward and unable to turn back. Frightened by the sound of the vehicles rushing past him, instinct took over. The small boxed turtle pulled everything inside his hide-a-way; shutting himself off from the world. Although instinct had taken over, this small creature was defenseless against the onslaught of the oncoming tires.
My granddaughters yelled at Mom to stop and rescue the turtle. Fortunately on this occasion, she was able to pull over and quickly tuck the tightly closed shell under her arm and race back to the vehicle. Although the girls wanted to take their new friend home and have him join their menagerie of pets, Mom won out insisting the turtle be released at a nearby creek. With the ending of the juggling act by little hands and the stillness around him, the small turtle slowly, carefully peeked out. No longer surrounded by the cares and dangers of his tiny world, he began to search out the new surroundings.
It is hard to explain the delight I find in these little scenes of nature. I love watching the various birds and wildlife that live in the woods of our community. However, many times the Lord uses these very scenes to teach me lessons in life. Too often, as humans we retreat from the dangers or perceived dangers around us. We withdraw into our little shells attempting to shut out the hurts of our world. Like the little turtle, we think our safety comes from this defensive act.
I have seen this event happen in countless others and at times in my own life. Hardship and pain comes, through life’s ups and downs. Emotional pain comes from interaction with others. Hurtful words and false accusations cause even the strongest to flinch at the noise of ‘oncoming danger’ and swiftly retreating into places of safety. Conflicts within church families result with offended hearts and church splits. Often the outcome of these events is to the determent of individuals who turn their backs even on their relationship with the Lord. Their shells seem to be impenetrable.
Many years ago I have walked this path myself closing myself off to everyone. Months later the Lord gently ministered these words ‘You are in the gall of bitterness.’ It was true! I felt betrayed not by man but by the Lord. It was hard, but I had to let go of the hurts and repent of my anger and lack of trust in the Lord. Ever so slowly, I came out of my shell and began exploring my world again.
We are in good company. Elijah, a mighty man of God who stood up to the false prophets of Baal experienced this same event in his life. After receiving Jezebel’s threat of death, he retreated. His shell was a cave far from Jezebel’s reach. Kings 19:9 reveals that he lodged there. The Strong’s Concordance defines lodge as: to stop (usually over night); by implication to stay permanently; hence (in a bad sense) to be obstinate (especially in words, to complain).
This man of God was hiding in a dark place when the Lord spoke to his heart. “What are you doing here?” His answer reveals his heart, ‘I did everything right but now I’m the only one left’. Like so many of us, Elijah is complaining about his lot in life. Then if that’s not enough, as he stands before the Lord, a roaring wind races through the area, then an earthquake, and afterwards a fire. Which way should he turn? Should he run away again? Finally, there is silence and in that silence he hears the Lord’s still small voice. As Elijah steps to the mouth of the cave, he hears words of hope, encouragement and direction for his life. His ‘shell’ opened and he was ready to venture out into his world again.
Shells seem important when we are attempting to hide from the world or in reality hide from life. But at some point, we must open up, peek out and venture forth. We will never find nourishment hidden in a dark lonely shell. I pray that if you are ‘shelled up’ that today you will listen for that still small voice. As you listen you will find hope, encouragement and direction for the days to come. Listen for that ‘still small voice’ of the very one who created you and loves you. He is waiting even now!