Over and over again the stubby-legged turtle climbed up the steep, slippery side. Each attempt brought the turtle to the same height, only to send him right back into the pond. Without hesitation, the turtle repeated it’s original ascent. Unfortunately, the determined turtle slid right back down again and again.
As I watch the turtles futile attempts at reaching it’s goal, I think about my lack of persistence at times in pursuing God’s plan for me. My whiny times of wishing my situation was different. The way I’d focus so much on my circumstances. My “shortcomings” which I wrongly assumed made me stuck. Unable to climb back up to reach toward God’s calling.
God’s creation, the turtle, didn’t show any sign of losing focus. The turtle didn’t heave a loud sigh when his short legs failed him once more. He didn’t throw a fit, trying to remove the hard shell hindering his labor up the slope. No. The turtle just went right back to the original plan, and repeated it over and over. The turtle accepts it’s lot in life. He accepts his short legs, hard shell, stiff feet, and short stature. Each time he falls, he doesn’t waste a single second doubting his original plan, bowing down in defeat, or whining about his circumstances.
My girls and I watched this turtle (turtle video) for several minutes. Unfortunately, I was so taken by the turtles tenacity that it didn’t occur to me to video his attempts until the end when he finally succeeded. With big eyes and laughter on our lips, we watched the turtle with sheer delight. And, when he finally reached his destination we clapped and cheered for the turtle.
My whiny defeat was quiet, but yet it lingered in my heart for far too long. At age 25, when I was diagnosed with a chronic, life-threatening, life-altering disease, you wouldn’t hear me complaining about my circumstances. But, the Lord heard me. And, of course, even when I didn’t vocalize my complaints to the Lord, He knew what was in my heart.
My whining sounded something like this:
Why did you give me these high energy kids when I am a mom with low energy?
Why do I keep facing the same trials over and over?
Why do I continue to experience one rare disease after another?
And, the constant looming question, what is your purpose for my pain, Lord?
Not only was I repeating the same trials but my growth was stunted. I was stuck.
The apostle Paul writes about a remedy for this pattern in the book of Philippians in the Bible.
Philippians 3:13-14, Brothers, I do not consider that I have made it my own. But one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.
Rather than being stuck in the past, focusing on previous trials, even yesterday’s trial, Paul says to forget it.
When the turtle slid back in the water, after another failed attempt, he didn’t float around in the water, with his head slunk low, rehashing his failed pursuits.
In all my questions and struggling to make sense of my circumstances, my attention was stuck in the past.
Paul, not only tells us what not to do, he gives us further instruction. “Strain forward to what lies ahead”.
I noticed the turtle continued to keep his focus on his goal. Each time he descended into the water, he kept his narrow head pointed in the direction of the slope he was to climb. He never turned away.
Once I stopped looking at the trials I had gone through, I was open to the Spirit leading me towards what the Lord had in front of me. I could see the truth.
The truth was I had faced life threatening trials, but I was still alive.
The truth was I had faced the inability to bear children, but I was a mom.
The truth was my life wasn’t much like I had planned it to be, but it was the life God had for me.
Then Paul continues on by stating, “I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.”
The turtle looked upward. We never figured out why the turtle was determined to climb up the slope, but his call was clear. He didn’t look back at where he’d been. He pushed and pulled his way upward.
Jesus’ call is upward. He’s not calling us backward or lower. Each step I take along this walk with Jesus, takes me higher. Closer to Him.
Don’t you hear Him calling?
Press on, my beloved.