I heard a cute story this week that teaches an important lesson. The tale concerns the Turtle Family, who, by nature, of course, do things kind of slow.
As the story goes, they decided one time to go on a picnic — and it took them a day to decide where to go, a day to prepare and pack the food, and two days to get there. Upon reaching the picnic grounds and (slowly!) unpacking their food, they discovered they had forgotten the salt. “I’d run home and get it,” said Little Boy Turtle, “but I am afraid you will start without me.” They promised to wait for his return and so he set off.
A day passes, then two. Two more days go by and, finally, Little Girl Turtle says, “Enough! I’m starving and will wait no more. Let’s eat!” She lifts a sandwich up to her mouth but before she can take a bite, a voice calls out from behind a tree farther down in the meadow. “I knew it!” said Little Boy Turtle, who had been there all that time, hunkered down in his shell. “I knew you would start without me!”
Fear. It can paralyze us, keep us hunkered down, stop us in our tracks. Anxiety can ruin our health, our relationships, our whole lives. Worries about having enough, being left out, concerns about failing or losing, can prevent us from living the life of abundance that Jesus wants for all of us.
Time and time again, in the Holy Scriptures, as God calls people to do something important, the first message shared is always “Fear not!” God is always telling God’s faithful people, “Do not be afraid!”
Jesus told us that we could not extend our life by even a day by worrying (Matthew, Chapter 6). His message to faithful people is that his perfect love, given to all, no strings attached, will always cast out any fear. (1 John 4:18)
There is a lot in life to fear, a fact that cannot be denied. But we do not have to be afraid to come out of our shells, we do not have to be paralyzed by that fear. In good times and in bad, the voice of the Lord calls out to us, through the ages, “Fear not … and be confident in this: I am with you always, even to the end of the ages.” (Matthew 20:18)
The Rev. Patricia M. Grace is rector of St. Mark’s Episcopal Church.