(Note: I wrote this when Ben was 6 years old. And tomorrow is his high school graduation celebration!)
It was clear right away that this was no ordinary turtle. Ben set him down on the deck for all to see, and he stuck out his stumpy little legs and started marching! When Ben picked him up again, instead of pulling into his shell, he kicked his legs, stuck out his crinkly little face and stared right up at him.
We named him Sunny, for his disposition, and for the sun-yellow streaks that marked his domed shell. Ben identified him as an Eastern Box Turtle, endangered but quite common to our woods, and a gourmand of such gooey delicacies as slugs, snails and earthworms. (He also had a taste for Asian pears.) So Ben set to work collecting Sunny’s slimy menu from beneath rocks and rotting logs. When he offered a nice fat worm to Sunny, he ate his revolting lunch right out of Ben’s hand!
We set up a tank for Sunny on the front porch. I smiled every time I checked on him, because he’d boldly peer up at me instead of pulling into his shell.
One afternoon, I watched Ben walking Sunny. (He would put him down on the grass and Sunny would walk, as Ben stayed just ahead of him.) It occurred to me: Ben and Sunny share a personality trait.
For Ben’s never been one to pull into his shell, either. As a toddler, he had no fear (although he provoked much fear in his stunned parents) as he ate or climbed or otherwise tackled anything he came across. If a child hit him or took his toy, he did not run to Mommy; he just hit or took the toy right back (thankfully, he has outgrown that stage). He was not one to hide from any risk or conflict. He stuck his neck out and marched along with Sunny-style confidence.
And he did not inherit this trait from me! By nature, I am not one to stick my neck out in risky situations. If it were up to my own desires, I’d pull into my shell and hide.
But when I gave my life to Jesus, I discovered this happy paradox: with God as my hiding place, I possess all the boldness I need, in order to do what He asks of me.
I have learned more of what this means through the years. Hiding in the Lord doesn’t mean withdrawing myself from the world, like your average turtle would pull into his shell until danger passed. Instead, God hides my life inside His love, no matter what is going on around me. I can risk investing in a difficult relationship, or standing up for what’s right when silence would be easier, because even as I do so, I am hiding in the most secure shelter in the world: God’s protective hand. I have the freedom to stick my neck out when God asks me to get involved, no matter how risky it may look to my human eyes. Even as He hides me under His wing, He sets me high upon the rock of His strength.
God’s children are safely hidden in His own perfect power and goodness and faithfulness. Confident and secure there, we can stick out our necks, stretch out our legs, and walk boldly wherever He may lead.