Sunday, July 25, 2010

Joy covers joy


The final morning at Hilton Head, I got up really early so I could have one last glorious bike ride on the beach before the 10 am checkout time. The tide had just started to go out so the riding was not easy in softer sand. Still, it was quiet and the beach was nearly empty. I had seen it all this vacation- Portugese Man of War, ocean alligator, herons close enough to touch, live sting rays, dolphins, the Great Pyramid in sand... there was nothing left to see. God had showered me with abundant visions to carry for the year, like a starter ember glowing so the fire could be rekindled should I ever need it. I was content.... and tired. The sand was deep and I had awoken by 6 every morning that week so I would not miss the glory of the lovely empty beach by bicycle.

And then I noticed a speck on the sand, right at the surf line. It looked like a turtle.
"UH-uh," I said, laughing, "I will not be fooled again this year!"

Last year, I had been biking in the early morning, and seen a baby turtle. With amazement, I stopped my bike and was exultant in seeing my first live baby sea turtle. I followed him as he trudged across the sand, and took some pictures, and then chucked him past the surf. Later I met a wildlife official, and told him what I had just seen. He said it could not have been a sea turtle as they were not hatching yet. I smugly showed him the photo, insisting it was a baby sea turtle. It was not. It was a fresh water terrapin. With horror, I realized that I had not only NOT saved a sea turtle from the sea gulls, I had chucked a fresh water baby to his death. The kind man told me terrapin like sea water too and so I had not killed it. He showed me the very obvious (now) claws on the photo of the front legs of my turtle. Sea turtles have flippers, not claws on toes. How could I have missed that, stupido?

But this time I was not going to be fooled. Iwasn't even going to stop.
"You can't fool me this time!" I shouted to God, who finds it humorous at times to mess with my complacency.
I rode by, but then circled back. Even a baby terrapin was worth a picture.
I knew baby sea turtles only cross the sand at night. By day, their dark bodies against the light sand would be instantly snatched up by the flocks of hungry sea birds. Still, I didn't see terrapin often either.

I parked my bike and walked over. The turtle's little eyes were closed. It seemed to be dead. And then I saw them.... on those front feet were not clawed toes, but flippers. and the back legs ended in paddle like appendages. This was not a terrapin. This was a sea turtle... a baby sea turtle, but alas, a dead one.

I gently picked him up and he began squirming furiously. He was alive!
"You crazy turtle!" I squawked, "What were you doing sleeping in on the most important day of your life? You were supposed to hit the ocean hours ago! I am not sure you understand the significance of your endangered status. Look, I think it might not be legal, but I am helping you along. I will get you into the water, but from that point on, it is up to you."

I walked him the few feet short of the surf he had almost managed on his own, and gently placed him in the tide as it whooshed back. He began paddling, the tide carried him back in, but then he ducked under a wave and was beyond the first few pounding surf lines.

As the speck disappeared into the ocean I called out, "And be careful! There are alligators in these waters!"

I smiled as I headed off in the peace of a blossoming day. I had been certain there could be no more glorious joys awaiting me. God had redeemed the sorrow of the past in so many ways....what a tender and loving message for him to send to me now.

There are times I think memory loss could be a blessing- to be able to forget all the awful things we have said and done.... but God shows me constantly a better way- the way of redemption, and even promises that all those years that were squandered in foolishness will be returned to me in inexplicable eternity.

"Swim baby swim!" I called to my turtle as he paddled to his home.

Joel 2:25 (New International Version)

25 "I will repay you for the years the locusts have eaten—

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