Why do turtles go into their shells? Two reasons. They’re scared or they’re sleeping.
Last spring, I was driving along the country road leading to our farm when I spotted a turtle in the middle of my lane. Not wanting to crush it, I pulled over, got out, and picked it up to move it more quickly to the side. The moment I touched it, in went head and all four limbs. The turtle practically slammed its shell door in my face! That’s the thanks I got for trying to save its life! Still, I moved it to safety and felt good for rescuing the cute little thing.
I was reminded of my turtle-saving incident last week as we viewed a tortoise exhibit at the Tucson Zoo. These reptiles are so slow moving! No wonder they need a mobile home to protect themselves! We watched an old tortoise munch on hay and then moved to the kiddie area where there was an empty turtle shell to wear. Much to my surprise, the shell intrigued our fifteen-year-old who wasn’t shy about flopping on his belly and crawling into the shell, pretending to be a turtle. We laughed and I snapped photos to mark the moment.
As I watched the real turtle and the pretend turtle, I thought about turtle shells and the armor we all wear to protect ourselves. And why do we seek protection? Protection from what? We all want protection from harm—from hurt. And we all want protection from rejection.
Hurt can come in a variety of ways—emotional, mental, physical, spiritual. Rejection is the same. When threats arise, by instinct we do one of two things—hide or attack. Turtles hide.
I can relate to the turtle. I’ve slammed my shell shut from outside threats over the years. Shells can offer healthy protection but used too often, they become cages where body, mind, and soul become trapped. We would be wise to watch the turtle who knows when to close off and when to open up.
When it comes to our relationship with God, we’re wise to stay open. There’s no need to slam shell doors in God’s face. There’s no need to withdraw into dark, cramped soul spaces afraid to show Him our flesh. He knows our flesh. He knows how vulnerable we are. He wants to heal, not to harm.
And yet, we have Adam and Eve genes. We fear. We feel guilt and shame. We can’t understand how anyone could really love us in our ugly, exposed brokenness. But He does. He sees. Actually, He sees more than we see of our pathetic mess. And He has much more compassion than we. We feel the need to hide. He feels the need to seek. We feel the need to reject love. He feels the need to keep offering.
There’s no need for hard shells with our creator God. We may need them for fellow sinners at times, but we never need them with God. He’s safe. Always. He loves. Always.
I want to abandon myself to God because He is the ultimate safe. His perfect love casts out all fear. For all of us who hide . . .He seeks and says . . .Come out! Come out! Wherever you are!
I will lie down and sleep in peace, for you alone, O LORD, make me dwell in safety. Psalm 4:8
There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear. 1 John 4:18