Two are better than one, because they have a good reward for their labor. (Ecclesiastes 4:9 NKJV)
I love Thanksgiving. It has me thinking of turkey, pumpkin pie, and turtle shells.
No, our family won’t be having turtle soup or turtle on the half shell or any other turtle-ly source of protein as a part of our feast. Please don’t send me your recipes…or your turtles.
The turtle shell I’m thinking of looks a lot more like the diverse circle of friends I can count on when I need somewhere safe to be.
Roman soldiers were known for a maneuver called the testudo, or turtle shell. In this formation the soldiers would position their shields together to create a protective shell over their ranks, protecting them from the arrows of the enemy and allowing them to continue to advance.
What a perfect illustration for the importance of our friends and the power of our friendships.
There have been many times in my life when I needed my friends shielding me when I was under assault or called upon to advance against the enemy. Times when the enemy’s attack came unexpectedly or so violently I felt I might be overwhelmed. Before I could even summon them, they were there already covering me. Some listened to me as I sobbed our words they could barely understand. Some prayed for me. Some counselled. But all loved.
There have been times in my life when I had no shell, or my shell was incomplete, leaving me vulnerable. I struggled to connect with others or I avoided connecting because I had been hurt before. It isn’t always easy to know who needs to be a part of your shell and who isn’t meant to be.
My shell consists of friends each bearing their own unique shield to use as a part of the
whole. Some are prayer warriors. Some know my kids and understand the heart cries of a mother. Some mentor me. Some hold me accountable when my walk falters. Some are fellow Christian writers who understand the call and struggles to share God’s love through the written word.
Some have been on their walk a long time. They have experienced fights I haven’t yet faced.Their shields are battered and scarred, battle tested.
Some are new on their walk. Their shield, like the shells of a baby turtle are still a little soft. I find a place for them in my turtle formation that allows them the opportunity to learn from others, to grow stronger. As they grow, they may move into other places, stepping into the roles of others who leave the formation through the natural rhythms of life.
My shell changes sometimes, but I’m okay with that.
The most important thing I have learned is that I must be ready with a willing heart and my shield of faith to serve in someone else’s shell. The only way to keep my shell whole and healthy is by being a willing and ready part of someone else’s shell.
In this way we advance through the trials of this world and
toward the glory of our Eternity.
So this Thanksgiving, I am thankful for my turtle formation--the friends in my life that cover me in the good times and in the bad. The ones who protect me when I don’t deserve it or don’t know I need it. The ones who forgive me when I have failed them and love me anyway. The ones who are there to encourage me or rein me back in. The ones who willingly take up the shield of faith so that together we may extinguish the flaming arrows of the evil one (see Ephesians 6:16)
Paul said it best when he prayed for his friends, and now I lift each of you up with the same words of praise and thanksgiving.
"My prayers for you are full of praise to God as I give him thanks for you with great joy! I’m so grateful for our union and our enduring partnership that began the first time I presented to you the gospel. I pray with great faith for you, because I’m fully convinced that the One who began this glorious work in you will faithfully continue the process of maturing you and will put his finishing touches to it until the unveiling of our Lord Jesus Christ!
It’s no wonder I pray with such confidence, since you have a permanent place in my heart! You have remained partners with me in the wonderful grace of God even though I’m here in chains for standing up for the truth of the gospel. Only God knows how much I dearly love you with the tender affection of Jesus, the Anointed One." (Philippians 1:3-8 The Passion Translation)
Happy Thanksgiving! Don't forget to thank your turtles.
And hey…if turtle is on your menu, enjoy…but don’t save any for me.