Have you ever wondered why a turtle retracts its neck back into its shell? I believed that it was used as a source of protection from their predators. Many years ago, I was one who would retract as a source of protection. Just as the turtle if I sensed fear or danger, I would go into my shell. By going inward, I was protecting myself from harm and keep others from harming me. I was raised by a stepfather that was in leadership in our local church and a completely different man at home. From the very beginning there was a lot of rejection. So, I stayed away whenever I felt threaten and retreated to my shell. It was a defensive mechanism for me. Hiding became a way of living for me and subconsciously I did not know that I was doing that.
By the age of 24, I endured a lot of hardship. I had a dysfunctional upbringing with abuse, was a wife, a mother of two children and on the brink of a divorce. I was on a vicious cycle full of anger and shame oozed out of my pores. I had major trust issues and always questioned people’s motives. Everyone was considered a predator out to harm me. I would flee the scene whenever I felt threaten by things in my environment. This was a habit that was really hard to give up until I recognize the patterns in my life that I was constantly repeating. My behaviors were out of control and I had to draw a line in the sand. I had to decide that if I was going to continue to live this life or let people in. I had to keep my heart from retracting and going into my shell.
In 1999, I decided to go visit a church that my mother in law had been attending for a number of years. I wish it was because I voluntarily went I did it more out of obligation so that she would not ask me again. I had a hard countenance and thought to myself, “This people are all being super nice, why”? It was hard to not show on my face what I was thinking about all these crazy nice people. I cannot recall the message the Pastor spoke on that day. I can recall the intense look he was giving when he was making a call for people who wanted a fresh start in their life. I found myself walking towards the front and saying “Yes” not knowing how or why I was up there.
Little by little I began to see who God truly was in my life and how he began to bring women who loved me unconditionally. Who would challenge me to think and grow, but there I was going into my shell whenever people got to close. I had to reprogram my mind and say to myself, “They are here to help you and not harm you”. They walked alongside me and can see that I struggled to let people in. Thank God for their patience and sensitivity to the Holy Spirit. Which allowed them to usher in the healing I needed. As well as allowed me to walk in the freedom I was intended to walk. I definitely feel it was a divine appointment when he brought me to that church.
Church is another tool that we can utilize that brings accountability if you are willing. It can also bring healing if you are ready to allow others in and not retract into your shell. So, would you like for me to tell you another reason why turtles retract their necks in and out? New research suggests that its original purpose was likely not defense, but was to find food. That is correct, I said, “food”. They would use it for hunting or attacking their prey. I have heard of snapping turtles and I definitely came in with those characteristics and can act upon them at times, if were being honest.
Hebrews 5:12-14 says, “for though by this time you ought to be teachers, you have need again for someone to teach you the elementary principles of the oracles of God, and you have come to need milk and not solid food. For everyone who partakes only of milk is not accustomed to the word of righteousness, for he is an infant. But solid food is for the mature, who because of practice have their senses trained to discern good and evil”.
When I came to this church, I needed to retract and put myself put there. I sought guidance and needed someone to teach me the basic principles and spoon feed me. In equipping and teaching me with the tools I needed to be able to stand on my two feet. As challenges came up, I sought guidance and knew that my community was there and so was the word of God as my nourishment.
It was important to not retract and come out and ask for help when I was stuck and trust me, I still do this today. Church has been a great community for me and I want to challenge you to get involved and find a church home. I could no longer sit in the pew and remain spiritually fat. I had to go out and give what God had given to me. God has brought many “Sandys” around me that I have been able to be that source of community and accountability too. I have been a member of this church for 19 years now. Those leaders played a huge role in my life and have a lot to do with the person I am today.
- Have you found your home?
- Ask God to lead you to your church home where your welcomed and people will not judge you and love you as you are.
This is what Jesus would do when he would hang out with the imperfect people. He shared and communion with them and loved them unconditionally with nothing in return but for them to know him! And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds, not giving up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging one another—and all the more as you see the Day approaching (Hebrews 10:24-25).
Carrier’s of Hope,
Breathing Hope One Life at a Time!