Toby the Turtle


Two True Fables: Part Two

To read Part One (Fat Cat) click here

1960s families loved turtles. Some eventually flushed theirs down the toilet (resulting in an outbreak of sewer-dwelling ninjas). But our neighbors the Cartingers couldn’t bear to part with theirs. Result? Toby grew to be the size of a dinner plate.

Although he wandered incessantly, Toby was visibly nervous about living amid a herd of thundering feet. So Mr. Cartinger tied a length of hot-pink yarn to his shell, and the other end to the bannister of the stairs. 

Toby was now free to roam. Whenever anyone wanted him they would simply “follow the yarn.” One moment he would be on the third stair and an hour later…the fourth stair (I didn’t say he wandered quickly).

One day while vacuuming, Mrs. Cartinger heard a series of bangs upstairs. The mysterious noise moved from room to room, and then suddenly, as if wearing a tiny-but-powerful jet pack, Toby zoomed into view, shot down the stairs at roughly eight million miles an hour…

And crashed into the vacuum cleaner. Mrs. C. stared uncomprehendingly, then turned off the device. The little reptile settled to the ground as his horrified human mom realized her vacuum cleaner had spooled up his tether!

There was nothing left but a shell. No legs, no head…

Oh, calm down, he was fine. He was just hiding inside his shell. In fact, he came out…

Six weeks later.

Sadly, many religious folks are Tobys or Fat Cats:

Tobys are legalists. They live in fear of God, but not the Old Testament kind, more like the fear of Godzilla kind. They tether themselves to rules and hide behind a shell of religion, all the while avoiding their actual Creator. They live in fear of being stepped on by a distant, mercurial, dangerous God. They know about sin, but not about grace.

Fat Cats are liberalists. Their doctrine is not fear, but presumption. They have no tether. In fact, they have no authentic connection to God at all. If they pray, it’s to butter him up (“I love you soooo much!”). They know about grace, but not about sin.

Both miss out. Tobys miss God’s love and assurance. Fat Cats miss God’s protection from sin, and from themselves. (Fat Cat always missed out on the safely de-boned chicken my mom prepared for our other cats!).

There are two things we can never fully understand:

The depth of our sin, and the depth of God’s grace. Only God can reveal them to us. No secondary source, no spiritual teacher, not even Scriptures can fully reveal them to us. Only God himself can. So go to the source. Go to the Shepherd and learn to know his voice. Don’t be a turtle or a fat cat…

Be a sheep.

“My sheep know my voice, and I know theirs. And I give them eternal life.” ~John 10:27

About mitchteemley

Writer, Filmmaker, Humorist, Thinker-about-stuffer
This entry was posted in For Pastors and Teachers, Humor, Memoir, Quips and Quotes, Religion/Faith and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

38 Responses to Toby the Turtle

  1. Pingback: Fat Cat | Mitch Teemley

  2. bdeckard92 says:

    Great analogy and the humor really makes the message real for me. On legalism and talking with God I agree, it’s easy to get caught up in doing deeds and acting right to get in God’s graces, on the other hand the buttering up of God through prayer is always funny to me because we think we can fool him somehow. I do it, we all do probably, but it gives us an opportunity to catch ourselves and talk to God even more. Thanks for the laughs and the insight.

    Liked by 2 people

  3. Will Marler says:

    At times, I see myself a legalist, and other times a liberalist, but I call myself a fundamental conservative Christian. My daily battle is to put myself totally in God’s hands, and focus my life toward His calling.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Relax... says:

    I loved this. 🙂 You’re so talented.

    Liked by 2 people

  5. carhicks says:

    What a great analogy. I believe I am a sheep, at least that is what I am working at.

    Liked by 2 people

  6. I especially enjoyed the turtle story because my daughter has a tortoise who is a beloved family pet. It made me think of those words from Come Thou Fount of Every Blessing: “let thy goodness, like a fetter, bind my wandering heart to thee…” great fables!

    Liked by 3 people

  7. says:

    Oh Mitch what a great post❤️ Be a sheep not s turtle. BAAAA🐏🐏🐏🐏

    Liked by 2 people

  8. ekurie says:

    I think if I could ever truly see my sinfulness in the face of God’s righteousness and purity I would dissolve on the spot. Thankfully He loves us so much He won’t let us. Or maybe He should.

    Liked by 1 person

  9. Oh my, Mitch, this is the BEST thing you’ve ever written!!! What an AWESOME analogy and portrait of truth! I absolutely love it! A definite re-blog! 🙂 God bless you, dear brother! 👍🏻🙏🏻☝🏻

    Liked by 1 person

  10. Reblogged this on Celebrate His Love and commented:
    This is well worth the read… you will love the apology and message! I guarantee…

    Liked by 1 person

  11. Toby the Turtle made me laugh and then gasp. Sharing this one with my Mom. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  12. This is absolutely wonderful. Love the analogy and perspective, and twists, and turns and a turtle that as I gasped reading this, wasn’t actually dead. Nice. Job!

    Liked by 1 person

  13. rashellbud says:

    It’s already been said many times, but this is a perfect, very well written analogy. It also brought back fun memories of the ’60’s when my dad found a turtle in a wheat field, and as soon as he met it, our fat cat crawled on top of the shell and sat for hours, daring the turtle to poke its head out.

    Liked by 1 person

  14. Nancy Ruegg says:

    I wondered where you were leading us with Toby–never guessed it would be to a vacuum cleaner! Adding my appreciation to those above for a memorable analogy. Well done, as always, Mitch. And praise God for our Shepherd who provides guidance, care, peace, contentment, and more for his sheep!

    Liked by 2 people

  15. Oh that was cruel. Knowing nothing of turtle anatomy, I feared the worse

    Liked by 1 person

  16. I love how you explain things… not intimidating or boring. I hope alot of people can read your work, especially those who really need to know more 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  17. BelleUnruh says:

    I was s legalist in my twenties until I fell so far I was humbled by my sin-filled heart. I try to be a sheep, (try-legalism?) I know I can do or be nothing without him. Love your post.

    Liked by 1 person

  18. cricketmuse says:

    Excellent. My pastor would appreciate this analogy.

    Liked by 1 person

  19. Such a good post! When I read the–not enjoyed by me word– “vacuuming”…I thought that you were going to tie these two fables into your post “Equal Pay for Women”! As in…why wasn’t Mr. Cartinger helping with cleaning? But…alas…he just helped to tie up the poor turtle and took away his freedom (if he indeed wanted freedom!). Too much freedom vs too little freedom. There we have the decision that God leaves up to us. ***I am sharing this so that my teacher friends can read it!

    Liked by 1 person

  20. gpavants says:

    Hi Mitch,

    It’s finding that walk in between our lazy cat self and the turbo fast-paced life? Lord be our balance.

    In Christ,


    Liked by 1 person

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