Monday, February 20, 2012

Sea Turtles

Sea turtles never thrilled me much.
I remember the annoying little cages on South Florida beaches where the eggs were protected.
I remember rolling my eyes and being irritated that some tree-hugger somewhere was taking all the fun out of my day at the shore.

I have a new-found respect for sea turtles.
For theirs is a journey of sanctification.
Their road is hard.
It is long.
It is narrow.

The sea turtle's life is hard from the very beginning.
Three days to reach the surface of the sand from the egg.
Forty horrid meters from the place where they are hatched to the current of the Gulf Stream.
Sand crabs.
About seventy more kilometers once they find the water...
to their first rest--if they find a raft of floating seaweed providing refuge from underwater predators.

From day one of the believer's journey, the Predator is after our soul.
To kill. To destroy.
And those not called according to His purpose laugh at our journey,
mock our sovereign protection,
and accuse us of ruining their fun.
We must keep our eye on the horizon,
Put one foot in front of the other.
To go on is to face a new host of dangers.

But to stand still is to perish.

The sea turtle instinctively catches the Gulf Stream which takes it from the tropical waters off the coast of Florida...
to the frigid North Atlantic.
Along the way, it must dodge hungry blue sharks in the south
and lazy, open-mouthed basking sharks in the north.
Four thousand kilometers to its waiting place.
And there it eats and grows
And waits
and waits
and waits.
It takes the sea turtle five years to reach its waiting place,
And fifteen years for nature to give it permission to leave.

We, too, spend much of our life waiting.
But if we grow impatient and move out ahead of the Redeemer,
we do so at our peril.
We may feel like our lives our stagnating,
But all the while, God is preparing us for the road ahead.
The hard road.
The long road.
The narrow road.

At least half of all sea turtles fail to make the initial trek from sand to sea,
lost to their very first encounter with predators.
And only one in ten thousand of the surviving half make it to their twentieth year...
...when the fruit-bearing begins.

How many of us have known fellow sojourners whom we thought followed the Lord in earnest,
only to find that their true passion was not God's glory...
but their own.
Not on the narrow path now--because they never were.

And then...
the sea turtles turn twenty, and they instinctively move out from their waiting place
To find a mate,
To do what the Creator put them here to do:
To bear the fruit that propagates their species.
Only now are they mature enough to bear serious fruit.
After much danger,
Much travel,
Much waiting.

Only now are they ready to head back, with that fruit,
to the land of their origin.
And all the while, their instinct has guided them through the treacherous Gulf Stream...

...where their God-given immunity has protected them.
Some predators turn out to be no predators at all.
As other sea creatures succumb to the poison of the man-o-war jellyfish,
Not only do sea turtles swim through them, immune to their sting;
They feast on them.

A table...
in the presence of their enemies.

Isn't it just like God to lead us into the valley of the shadow of death,
only to find that we need fear no evil?
Sea turtles have their jellyfish,
And Christians have their lions.
But those lions--as Bunyan pointed out--are chained.

The sea turtle finds a mate and returns with her fruit to the beach whence she came.
There she beaches herself and deposits her fruit in the sand.

There will be a day when we stand before our Creator-Redeemer.
Returning to the land of our citizenship,
Just us and our fruit.
We will look back on this journey called life...
This hard, long, narrow journey,
A journey our Creator-Redeemer has intricately ordained for us from the beginning.

I wonder if we parents are setting the right expectation for our children.
Do they know they road is hard?
Do they know the road is long?
Do they know the road is narrow?
They need to know;
We need to tell them.

Tell them that 'sanctification' is spelled "l-o-n-g-h-a-r-d-n-a-r-r-o-w."
Tell them that "longhardnarrow" is what conforms us to His image.
Tell them that "longhardnarrow" produces fruit in keeping with repentance.

Tell them, as Spurgeon did, that everything is right on schedule.

And tell them that those who persevere on the "longhardnarrow" meet their Creator-Redeemer on the beach once again, this time with their fruit, to hear Him say,
"Well done, good and faithful servant."