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The Faithful Tortoise

Did you grow up with Aesop’s Fables? Perhaps the most well-known tale in that collection is The Boy Who Cried “Wolf”, but easily the next would be The Tortoise and the Hare—which is, unashamedly, a favorite of mine. It teaches that slow and steady wins the race, not necessarily speed, and I’ve taken comfort in that for years, for (if you haven’t yet noticed) I’m far more tortoise-like in just about everything.

But a teacher friend recently shared a different look at it. She asked her students what adjective could be used to describe the tortoise, and one of them said “faithful”.

I had never thought of it like that before. But you know what? It’s totally true! And it was absolutely what I needed to hear at the time, because in my own case, writing this current book has been an agonizingly slow and difficult process and I’ve wondered on many accounts if I should walk away. From the story, even from writing as a whole. But that would mean being unfaithful; not because it’s a passing fancy I picked up and am now obligated to finish—no at all! It would be unfaithful because I believe writing, this storytelling, is both a gift and a charge from my Savior. So to walk away just because it’s hard, to toss it aside and wander somewhere else because it’s not going as fast as I think it should, would be unfaithful.

After all, what is faithfulness but staying true—loyal and steadfast—to something or someone?

There are so many pictures of the Christian walk that we can pick out of this fable of the tortoise and the hare, but in the interest of staying on track and not following all the rabbit trails, I wanted (okay, need to) focus on just that one thought.

How often are we like the fickle hare? His arrogance and capricious nature had him turning aside from the race, so assured of his victory that he went off on his own way, got distracted, fell asleep, and lost. I can only speak for myself, but, don’t we all so often do the same thing? We tell God to stand back, ’cause we “got this”. We turn aside from the path Christ points us in because we want to do what we want to do, full of self-interest. Maybe we think there’s a better/easier way, maybe we’re too afraid or too lazy. Either way, we leave the road, abandon the race, get distracted—even fall asleep! We become unfaithful.

The tortoise, however, while not a lean and mean speed machine, but more clunky and oafish, kept on trundling toward the finish line. Even when the hare sped on ahead of him, he didn’t bemoan the foolish challenge of the race or despair of ever reaching the end or stop and give up. Slow and steady, he faithfully kept to the race.

We live in a world of speed and instant gratification, more so now than ever. We get impatient waiting five seconds for a web page the load—tell me that’s not a problem. I don’t know about you, but it seems like everyone is always in a hurry. Maybe it’s because a lot of the time my thoughts take longer than five seconds to load, maybe it’s something else, but what I do know is that the constant running and busyness makes us forget what the tortoise teaches us.

You don't have to be fast to be faithful. 

You don’t have to keep up with every new thing or get a thousand things done in a day or even be involved in every little service and outreach project. Because God isn’t holding a stopwatch timing your every move or tallying up your score. He doesn’t care how fast you’re going, he cares that you’re going. That you’re going with him.

Besides, slow and steady paces are far more conducive to intimate conversation. How can you build a meaningful relationship with anyone during a sprint? When everything is always go! go! go! you don’t have time to get to know who’s running beside you, or why you’re even running in the first place.

So take a deep breath, friends. You don’t have to travel at everyone else’s speed; it’s not them you’re trying to keep pace with. Jesus wants to walk with you every step of this journey—even if you’re crawling forward—because he’ll give you the strength to take the next step, one at a time. Because he is faithful. Christ won’t leave you hanging because you’re moving, doing, growing too slow. He promises to go with you, and he always keeps his promises.

Let’s be more like the tortoise. Whatever your race is—teaching, parenting, writing (like me!), composing, studenting, whatever—keep at it faithfully with your focus fixed on Jesus. That way, you’re bound to finish victorious.

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