We were playing disc golf in Cain Park. As we approached a hole that overlooks the lake, we saw a large moving rock. It was covered with moss and it was making a hasty retreat to the water, but it was too slow. I stepped near the beast and it immediately withdrew into its shell.
It could not have known that I meant it no harm. It could not have known that I was cheering it on. I was a fan and an admirer. It saw me as an enemy. I leaned down to take its picture. The frown was etched in green. I spoke to it kindly, but I could not coax it out of its shell. It just sat and waited for me to leave. The communication gap is real between people and turtles. Maybe one day, scientists will develop a system by which we could understand each other, but for now turtles and people live in different worlds.
Unfortunately, the communication gap between people is no less real. We have language and science on our side, but still much communication is blocked. One reason is our shells. We seem to all have them. It's the place where we go to defend ourselves, to justify ourselves. We are so ready to be right and seen as right, that we can hardly listen to any criticism. Sometimes, however, another person loves us and wants to help us. They want to help us heal. It could be an apology or a change of behavior, but we interpret the communication as an attack and so we retreat.
Not without good reason. Too often we live in a culture ready to pounce, ready to mock or ready to scold. Too often a mistake which might have been corrected quickly if dealt with in love, is turned into an opportunity to shame us. We have learned to retreat to our shell due to bad expereince.
If only there was a loving community of grace whose goal was to lift, to encourage, to correct gently and restore. If only there was a place where fear was understood, where misbehavior did not become a label, where change was expected and possible. If only the church would be the best place to be broken and not the worst place. If only the people of Christ could say with Jesus, "Forgive them, they do not know what they are doing" and in so doing draw people out of their shells.