Alex Haley, author or Roots, kept a photo in his office of a turtle on a fencepost. When asked about this odd conversation piece, he’d respond:
Any time I start to think, ‘Look how good I am,’ I look at the turtle—me—and realize I did not get here by myself.
Sometimes Daryl and I talk about the shoulders we stand on, all the people who helped get us to where we are. Our families, our professors, our mentors. From my parents schlepping me to ice hockey games all around the state of Wisconsin to keep me out of trouble (“A kid on the ice is not in hot water,” my dad is still fond of reminding us) to all those dear friends who babysat for our kids so Daryl could finish his dissertation, we have been richly blessed.
Like the turtle, we didn’t get here by ourselves. Neither did you.
It’s good to remember, isn’t it? In an age where entitlement reigns and self-actualization is actually a thing, it’s good to take a moment and remember where we’ve come from and all those who have boosted us up. And not just our friends and families, either, for God has done far, far more than we could ever ask or imagine.
In fact, we didn’t just start on the ground like the turtle. No, it was much worse than that. We started out separated from a loving God by the depth of our sin. And there was nothing we could do to fix things.
Fleming Rutledge, in her book, Not Ashamed of the Gospel, puts it this way:
We don’t like that part about being [powerless], so we substitute another gospel, the American gospel: ‘God helps those who help themselves.’ As many polls have shown, vast numbers of Americans think that comes from the Bible. It can’t be said too many times: it does not come from the Bible. The Bible tells us exactly the opposite: When we could not help ourselves, Christ died for us.
We needed a rescuer. Thanks be to God, we have one. In the book of Romans, Paul puts it like this:
6 You see, at just the right time, when we were still powerless, Christ died for the ungodly.7 Very rarely will anyone die for a righteous person, though for a good person someone might possibly dare to die. 8 But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.
We’re not turtles on fenceposts, friends. We’re sinners saved by the amazing, overwhelming, gracious, generous love of the living God.
Now that’s worth an Amen.