Tag Archives: kingdom of god

the miracle of baby sea turtles

a few weeks ago, max and i were on oak island, in north carolina (where i was speaking at a great camp). the shoreline of the island is a sea turtle sanctuary, and there are signs posted about the stiff penalties for messing with the turtles or their nests.

we had a rare opportunity to see two baby sea turtles make their trek across the beach to the ocean. it was an experience of god’s creation max and i will never forget.

a little background info (which we got from the turtle rescue peeps who were present):
– mom sea turtles come on shore in the middle of the night, dig a hole in the sand, and lay their eggs — dozens of them. then mom buries the “nest” and crawls back to the sea.
– the babies have a 1 in 1000 chance of making it to the ocean. even if they hatch, and do so at a time when others are also hatching (which, collectively, gives them the ability to dig up through the sand to the surface), foxes and other predators really like them some baby turtle num-nums. and, even if the baby turtles make it up and don’t get munched, they can easily get lost, head the wrong direction, and not make it.
– once the boy babies make it to the sea, they will never again set foot on land. the girl babies will only set foot (or flipper) on sand again if they make it back to lay eggs. but only 1 in 10,000 make it back to lay eggs.

so you can see why, with all of that up against them, it makes sense that there are volunteer “sea turtle rescue” folk who help the process along. they walk the beach every morning, looking for new nests (which they can find because of the track made by the mother). if the nest is still intact (and hasn’t already been assaulted by a fox or some other predator), the volunteers put a cage around it to protect it. every evening, other volunteers check the nests. and, after the appropriate gestation period, the volunteers assist the babies in making it to the sea.

now, they can’t just dig up the hatchlings, and carry them to the ocean. just as helping a butterfly out of its cocoon will rob it of the strength it needs for survival, baby sea turtles must make the trek to the ocean on their own. so the help the rescue people provide is in setting up a little runway of sorts — side rails to point the way, and smoothing out the sand. when max and i were watching, most of the eggs had already hatched, and the volunteers were doing their final step of digging up the nest, counting the hatched and unhatched eggs (which they report to some university), and seeing if there are any hatched babies who didn’t make it to the surface. they found two of these little ones when we were there, and set them at the beginning of the “runway”.

one of the little guys (or girls) got disoriented about halfway to the ocean, turned around, and started heading in the wrong direction. the volunteers explained that you can’t shine a light (or use a flash), as it will damage their eyes; but a red light will not hurt them, and they’ll head toward it (hmmm, baby bulls?). luckily, my little iphone flashlight app lets me change colors; so i set it for red, and the volunteer held it close to the sand on the ocean side of the disoriented hatchling. he quickly turned around and scurried in the right direction.

they are SO tiny — about 2 inches long. and they will get so freakin’ huge. watching them scuttle along the sand is an amazing snapshot of god-given instinct, fragility, and — particularly — persistency. it’s a little hard to describe why this would be so emotional to watch. the best word i can come up with for it is BEAUTY. it was not a significantly different feeling i have than when i have stood in front of the monet water lilies in paris, at the musee l’orangerie; or when i looked at my own perfect little babies; or when i stared into bryce canyon this past summer. there’s something about true beauty, in whatever its form or presentation, that both reflects god’s values and creativity, as well as connects with an image-of-god-part in me.

when the babies reached the smooth, wet part of the sand, they took off. they were already moving quickly (for their size). but with the scent of the ocean in their noses, they seriously busted a move. the remains of a wave, gliding with its last few inches of momentum, caught them in a half-inch of water. and their little flippers took off in hyper-swim mode, as if to say: this is what i was made for; even though i’ve never been here, i know this is my home.

i almost cried when they swam beyond my sight — propelled way more by the receding current than by any effort of their own. i swallowed hard, and wore and irrepressible smile on my face.

beyond the experience of seeing such a rare and stunning beauty, i think i connected with this experience for other reasons. you don’t have to look very deeply into this description to see all kinds of allegorical connections to our human experience. bottom line: i am that baby sea turtle over and over and over again.
i have so many natural predators.
i have so much opposition, and need help.
i can so easily get lost; and without others to help me dig out of the nest, i’m in trouble.
when i’m provided a runway, it sure is helpful, though i’m likely unaware of its provision.
i benefit from help, to be sure, but need to struggle myself if i’m ever going to learn and grow.
i can sense ‘home’ (my core identity, in christ, and joining up with the kingdom of god) when i’m close to it.
when i get caught in the trailing edge of the surf of the kingdom, i move more fully into my intentional design, whether i fully realize it or not.
when i’m in that zone, i usually think i’m mostly moving under my own locomotion, and am rarely fully aware of the “intentionality” of the surf.

anyhow. i have thought of those little sea turtle babies many times since i was given the gift of meeting them. helpless, really, but destined for a large and long existence of non-rushed swimming in the ocean. mmmmm. i want the kingdom-of-god allegorical equivalent of that.

the implications of joining up with the kingdom of god

in our dcla program planning meetings, we had a very interesting theological discussion. it actually surfaced out of our opening time of prayer, when we first gathered. and it continued, in one form or another (serious dialogue, childish teasing) for the three days we were meeting.

several people joined in, but it was primarily one other guy (a good friend, whom i love dearly) and me who were strongly disagreeing.

now, i’m going to lay it out here, to the best of my ability, and would love to hear input, feedback and response. i say “to the best of my ability”, because i’m sure i will, to some extent, create a caricature of both his input (in a negative way) and my own input (in a positive way).

also, i should say, it was a really fun disagreement, healthy dialogue, and made us both wrestle quite a bit (and, i think, the others in the room).


it started when he prayed something like, “God, we know you’re going to do what you’re going to do, and we are unnecessary to your plans….”

after the prayer, we started talking about the dcla content, and i interjected that i’d like to have a bit of a discussion about our perspectives on the implications of us joining up with the active work of god in the world, because that’s a big theme of the dcla content we’re developing. i asked my friend to restate and unpack what he’d prayed. he explained that he used to be driven by obligation and guilt, but that he doesn’t see god that way anymore (good so far). he said he’s so deeply come to believe in the sovereignty of god (still good) and the idea that god doesn’t “need” us (yup, still good) that he believes god will accomplish what god is going to do in the world whether we join god in this work or not (hmmm).

we had a bunch of discussion about the difference between being guilted into obedience and viewing joining god’s kingdom work as an opportunity, or invitation. all good. he explained that he thinks the reason for us to live in a kingdom way is that it brings congruency to our lives, as we live into the way we were created to live (i’m great with that, but it brought a nagging question).

i wondered, “does that mean you think we don’t actually play a role in adding to the work of the kingdom?” “no,” he said, and went on to share this illustration:

when his daughter was 2, he was doing some work in her room. and he noticed that she was standing off to the side, mimicking his movements. he thought this was sweet. then, he started painting some trim work, and she wanted to paint also. he said, “no honey, you’re a little kid, and painting is adult work.” she started crying, and his wife piped in, “just let her paint.” so he gave her a little brush, and a little bowl of paint, and she went to it, messily painting a small section of the wall. he kept telling her what a great job she was doing. he moved to a roller, and gave her a tiny roller also. while continuing to tell her what a wonderful job she was doing, he painted over the portion she had painted, so the end result was what he had always planned.

he said that this is what god does with us.

i tried to restrain myself, but said something like, “that’s horrible! it’s manipulative and a lie!” i went on, “i was hoping you were going to say, ‘when i got to the section she’d painted, i painted around it, framing it. it wasn’t as smooth as the parts i’d painted, but it was her contribution to the plan i already had to paint the wall. the wall was going to get painted either way, but i allowed her to contribute. AND, the wonderful thing is that, for years after that, we cherished that little less-than-perfect portion she painted, which made the wall something our family valued even more.”

my point is: while i agree that our joining up with god’s kingdom isn’t about guilt or manipulation or “duty”, i think that god invites us — gives us the opportunity — to participate in god’s kingdom work in a way that implicates the outcome. this doesn’t change the idea that god is sovereign, or that god is capable of doing what god intends to do. but we are — i believe — really and actually participating in the outcome. in other words, i think we are given the opportunity to play a participative role that changes the outcome, or, at least, becomes a part of the outcome.

we didn’t come to agreement on this, but it was a great and spirited dialogue.

so, what do you think? am i nuts? am i a heretic?