Obedience, Trust, and the Snapping Turtle Man

I like to travel back roads. Those winding roads where I’m more likely to meet a tractor going 25 than a semi going 80. That’s just how I roll. Kinda slow-like, past mossy ponds and cow pastures, through tree tunnels, around asphalt bends, over culverts through which flow creeks and cricks and branches once named but now forgotten.

I tried to go home via back roads after church of a Sunday, but there happened to be a train at the Avon crossing. I hadn’t been stopped by a train at that crossing in years and I needed to get home and finish preparing for home group. But this wasn’t any old train. It was a slow-moving train that not only took its time, but stopped completely and then took its time again, only in reverse.

The youngun and I were maybe the third or fourth vehicle back from the tracks, behind a black, extended cab truck. The truck wasn’t exactly new, but it still had some shine on it. And stickers. White stickers that showed up real clear-like against the black of the truck, the black of the tinted windows. One sticker was about autism. One sticker was the stars and stripes hung sideways. On the rear window was a sticker of a female skull whose nose and mouth was covered by a stars and stripes mask. I knew it was a female skull because it had a messy bun, complete with delicate tendrils of hair that hung down in white ringlets. On either side of the skull, two skeleton hands with middle fingers pointing up.

I breathed a prayer that the youngun wouldn’t ask me what all that meant, and the good Lord answered immediately. There, at the tailgate, a snapping turtle raised its head and proceeded to claw its way out of the back of the truck. It toppled down onto the gray road, recovered from the fall, and oriented itself toward green grass and freedom.

I’ve had turtle a few times. Momma used to fry it up or made it into turtle soup, which was pretty good with homemade biscuits. We’d jug the turtles because they destroyed the banks on our little pond and put the cattle and horses in danger. They ate all the little fishes before they could grow up big enough for us to catch and eat them. One year, they ate all the ducklings, too.

I’ve seen many a truck pull over to grab a snapper crossing the road and chuck that dude into the truck bed for later – back roads traveler that I am and all. So when this snapper reared its head, I knew he was probably on the menu for lunch or dinner, and maybe even both, depending on how many showed up to eat. Through the tinted window, I saw little heads bobbing around in the back of that extended cab who might’ve been looking forward to turtle. I can’t hardly abide starving children, so I honked my horn and pointed down at the escaping entree.

Sometimes, my good intentions outrun my sense, and I don’t discover it until it’s too late. I did, however, make a mental note to include that as a character flaw in a future story. I’ve got gobs of personal examples to draw from.

After I honked my horn, the person in the passenger seat looked out her side view mirror and espied the escapee. I saw her head lean toward the driver. The driver opened his door. That moment right there was when I realized I might have made a mistake, despite the starving kids in the back seat.

The driver was a smallish kind of man. He sported a summer buzz cut and his right eye was all squinty because of the smoke from the cigarette he had clamped between his lips. He was dressed in a burnt orange wife beater tank top and charcoal gray lounge pants with little white skulls on them. He shuffled with a kind of slow arrogance that traffic stopped by trains can allow, and rubbed his right hand over his paunch in slow, repetitive ovals. Slow-like, he walked the length of the truck bed, then the length of the tailgate. He bent down, his chin jutted out to avoid smoke blindness, and grabbed that snapper by the tail. The turtle snapped – hard – at the air and the man chucked that dude into the bed of the truck, then reached in to rearrange the junk and pinned the turtle down. Dread dropped into my stomach. I regretted I had not been an accessory in the turtle’s escape.

The man turned then and looked through the windshield of my car. His lips, still clamped down on the cigarette, spread into the thin line of what might have been a grin. He started that weird rubbing on his paunch again. My youngun had unbuckled and leaned forward, draping herself over the back of the front seat to watch the show. He looked at me. His lips thinned even more. He sauntered back to his truck.

Time to go. I couldn’t explain the feeling. Still can’t. I don’t know what would have happened had we stayed, but I knew it was time to go. Right that minute. Something about this image-bearer pricked at my spirit.

“God, get me out of here,” I prayed inside my head as the snapping turtle man proceeded to put his truck in reverse and back toward me.

I did a kind of three point turn, hoping it looked like a natural, real calm thing to do, all the while keenly aware of the position of the black truck and its occupants. I backtracked. By my reckoning, if I headed south-ish, then a right turn might just lead me westward-ish. And westward-ish seemed to be the direction I wanted to go had I still been traveling north-ish. Then again, it’d been a long time since I’d seen a map of Bourbon County, and I was nowhere near directional perfection.

I turned right. It wasn’t long before I felt all topsy-turvey direction-wise, so I slowed down to nearly crawling and punched in my address on my map app. The nice lady in my phone started talking. I obeyed her, but I didn’t trust her. It didn’t seem like the direction she was telling me to go was right. I’d have turned left when she told me to turn right. And the further I drove, the narrower the roads became. Every now and again, I checked my rearview, somehow expecting a black truck to appear behind me. In my head, I started fussing at the lady in my phone. I didn’t want to alarm the youngun by how utterly lost I felt, and there were so many things I still couldn’t explain from our little adventure.

Being lost was better than feeling pinned in by the snapping turtle man. But being lost was not as good as being home. I just kept driving. Fussing and driving, trying not to be afraid.

The nice lady in my phone told me to turn left onto a road I’d never heard of in all my days of living in Bourbon County. All of a sudden, I spilled out onto a wide, two-lane road. My road. And I made it home.

In his book Trusting God, Jerry Bridges wrote:

Yet it is just as important to trust God as it is to obey Him. When we disobey God, we defy His authority and despise His holiness. But when we fail to trust God, we doubt His sovereignty and question His goodness. In both cases we cast aspersions upon His majesty and His character. God views our distrust of Him as seriously as he views our disobedience. When the people of Israel were hungry, “they spoke against God, saying, ‘Can God spread a table in the desert? … Can he supply meat for his people?’” The next two verses tell us, “When the Lord heard them, he was very angry … for they did not believe in God or trust in his deliverance.” (Psalm 78:19-22)

Driving back roads that day helped me understand how I could obey, but not trust. I’d prayed. God answered. Immediately. Not once, but twice.

And I fussed about it.

In my heart, I treated God’s deliverance and direction like I didn’t believe God was sovereign, or all-knowing, or good. Obeying, but not trusting, even though I know trust is what God requires of me.

Trust anchored deep in my heart that goes beyond the outward show of obedience. My blinker here. My steering wheel turned there. My foot pushed on the accelerator. My heart utterly surrendered to His perfect will.

Trust in the Lord with all thine heart and lean not unto thine own understanding. In all thy ways acknowledge him, and he shall direct thy paths.

Proverbs 3:5-6 (KJV)

To trust means I must give up my suspicions about His ability to guide me. In all things. In whatever way He sees fit.
To trust means I must give up control. Control of what I think my life should look like. Control over the tight grip on my story’s pen.

All this giving up.

Well-beloved creative, that’s hard, but it’s so very worth it when what we gain in the end, is home.

Time to think: Where are you? Are you walking out obedience with trust, or with fuss? Do you believe God will keep His promises, even when He leads down narrow roads? Do you have scriptures to help you, like Proverbs 3:5-6 above? Share in the comments below how God gently leads you home to trust and obey Him.


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Comments

4 responses to “Obedience, Trust, and the Snapping Turtle Man”

  1. Proverbs 3:5-6 is one of my favorite passages. However, your “All that giving up” hit hard. Thanks for making me pause.

    1. Makes me pause, too. Thank you for reading, my friend.
      Blessings, K

  2. -Lorrie Avatar
    -Lorrie

    I am living my life where I don’t know where the narrow road will lead me, but I am confident that the one who went before me on this narrow road will be present with me and provide protection and power when He knows I need it. Obeying isn’t easy, but trusting as you said isn’t either. When life lesson’s have taught us that trust is something that can be broken and painful, when control was used as a weapon against you surrender is something I have had to relearn. This isn’t easy but knowing God is the one who rescued me and went through these life lesson’s with me and knows where the road leads to, I can take refuge in Him, my Savior! Thank you for this reminder that in the end we will be HOME!

    1. Surrender, accepting love, following His leading. Wonderful steps on this narrow road, my friend. Keep going homeward. I’m cheering you on.

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