I was going so fast that I almost walked right past him (or her), and the fact that my eyes were not on the ground made it even more likely that I would walk right on by without ever noticing. Still the dark green circular something on the pavement did manage to catch my attention, so I stopped to take a closer look. Turns out it was a turtle, a little bigger than the size of my open hand, but with no head or legs visible at the moment. What should I do? If I left him there, he would be run over by a car for sure. And he didn’t seem to be making much progress in crossing the street. (Turtles are notoriously slow) I confess – I didn’t really want to pick him up with my hands but . . .
This turtle was obviously lost. Where had he come from? And where was he headed? He was alone as far as I could tell. Do turtles travel in herds, or packs or flocks or in any kind of a group caravan? Turns out a turtle group is actually called a “bale” – but this morning it appeared that all the other turtles had “bailed” on this one, because he was quite alone in all the world when our paths crossed today. Had he failed to follow the other turtles and lost his way? Had he become distracted and taken his eyes off the other turtles? This turtle obviously hadn’t read my recent post about keeping your eyes on the ball. If he had, he would know how important it is to “fix your eyes” on what is essential, so you don’t end up lost, alone and far from your intended destination.
This morning, my new turtle friend was all three of these things and he needed my help. There are so many things to see along the path, perhaps this turtle had become distracted because he had not heeded the words of Proverbs 4:25,
“Let your eyes look straight ahead, fix your gaze directly before you.”
There seems to be no shortage of advice about where to look or not look. Still, like my new turtle friend, I often find myself lost, asking “how did I get here?” Then follows the more important question, “and what is the way back?” Where do I look? All manner of instruction comes to mind as I daily navigate the path before me, step by step. “Don’t look down!” How often have I heard that admonition? Good advice when my path becomes a steep climb upwards or like the tight-rope walker, I must walk a fine line in life. They say “don’t look down” for a reason.
I am to look up. “I lift up my eyes to the hills – where does my help come from? My help comes from the Lord, the Maker of heaven and earth. He will not let your foot slip – He who watches over you will not slumber; indeed He who watches over Israel will neither slumber nor sleep.” (Psalm 121:1-4)
Good to know – so reassuring – with my eyes on my Creator, He will not let my foot slip. With my eyes on Him, I will not wander off the path, even though many are the distractions that line the path on both sides. “Don’t look back” is another admonition I hear as I follow the footprints left for me by the One who “leads me in the way everlasting.” (Psalm 139:24) Dr. Richard Johnson says, “no horse wins a race looking back.” (race horses also wear blinders so they can’t look to either side, preventing them from getting sidetracked, which would slow them down in their race to the finish line) But looking back can have even more dire consequences than just not finishing first. What about not finishing at all? Consider what happened to Lot’s wife, who was running for her life along with Lot and their two daughters, from the coming destruction of the city of Sodom. We read her story in Genesis 19,
“As soon as they had brought them out, one of them said, ‘Flee for your lives! Don’t look back, and don’t stop anywhere in the plain!’ . . . But Lot’s wife looked back, and she became a pillar of salt.” (Genesis 19:17 & 26) Then I read in Luke 9:62,
“Jesus replied, ‘No one who puts his hand to the plow and looks back is fit for service in the kingdom of God.’ ” Instead I am to follow Paul’s instruction given in Philippians 3:13-14,
“But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.”
Daily distractions vi for my attention. If something can get me to shift my gaze, even for a moment, I can be deterred and even veer off course. Such was the plight of my turtle friend this morning. Something had distracted him, captured his attention, shifted his focus and now he was no where near his intended destination. Although I don’t know exactly where that is, I know it is not the middle of a street. I couldn’t leave him there in the street, so I picked him up and deposited him in the cool, damp grass of the nearest yard. I took into account the direction he was facing when I found him (even though his head was inside his shell) and chose the yard to which he appeared to be headed. There were no other turtles in sight, to provide me a clue as to which way the migration might be going. At least my wayfaring friend will be more comfortable in the grass than on the asphalt.
I wished him well on his journey and continued on with my own, reminded once again how easily I can lose my way if I allow the distractions of each day to turn my focus away from the One I am following. Don’t look down, don’t look to the left or to the right, don’t look back, keep my eyes on the prize – or as the words of a favorite hymn say,
“turn your eyes upon Jesus, look full in His wonderful face, and the things of earth will grow strangely dim, in the light of His glory and grace.”
sincerely, Grace Day