Toby the Turtle


Two True Parables: 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 (reverence), 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 themselves 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.

43 Responses to Toby the Turtle

  1. Pingback: Fat Cat | Mitch Teemley

  2. Excellent analogy. When my twin brother and I were about six years old back in 1946, our mother bought us a little turtle to share. We loved our turtle. We played with it mostly in the diningroom where the linoleum had flowers on it. We thought our turtle would enjoy wandering through our flowers. But, one day, when we were through using him for our entertainment, we wander into another room to do something else. We forgot our turtle! Next thing we heard was a kind of crunch and “Oh, shoot!” (That was our father cussing.) We ran into the dinigroom and there our turtle was crushed by our father’s shoe. We cried. We didn’t blame our father, but we missed our turtle.

    Sometimes we don’t follow God where ever he goes and are crushed. BTW, I tend to call people who show up to worship just sometimes as PIT ~ Putting In their Time. Or ATG ~ Appeasing The God(s). (I know. I know. I shouldn’t call people names. Slap my face.)

    Liked by 4 people

  3. smzang says:

    “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.”

    You had my full attention : )

    and then followed the full force of the lesson…slick! and wholly (no pun intended) successful!

    Liked by 5 people

  4. Took me a minute to stop laughing before I got to the message. Great post. Love it!!!!

    Liked by 2 people

  5. numrhood says:

    thy wilderness and the solitary place shall be glad for them; and the desert shall rejoice, and blossom as the rose.

    john 35:52

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Nancy Ruegg says:

    As I was coming to the end of this post, I wondered, if we shouldn’t be turtles and we shouldn’t be fat cats, what SHOULD we be? Your conclusion was the obvious (yet slipped right by me!) choice: be a sheep. Important truth wrapped in delightful humor, Mitch! Well done.

    Liked by 4 people

  7. Preciousone says:

    Wow…this was a great conclusion to Fat Cat! Plus the spiritual implications, the great moral…absolutely wonderful job Mitch. May the Lord continue to grant you wisdom, knowledge and looooaddds more inspiration 🙌🏽👏🏽

    Liked by 2 people

  8. says:

    I’d rather be a sheep than a cat or a turtle. It would be nice to have someone else being the leader.

    Liked by 1 person

  9. Such a good comparison! I used to be a Toby for sure.

    Liked by 1 person

  10. IanC555 says:

    OH MY!!! Yes!!! This was definitely worth the wait! ABSOLUTELY!!

    AWWWW, MITCH…this was such a great article and it is really soulful (and playful as I think a soul might just be inclined towards)…and quite concretely clear as you explained…and now it is a revelation!!! A really really GOOD revelation.

    Thank you

    Peace in spirit…

    Liked by 2 people

  11. joyroses13 says:

    OH gosh, you made my heart stop at first with “No legs, no head…” LOL! Very glad Toby was Okay, and great lessons from Toby and Fat Cat. 🙂 Well done!

    Liked by 2 people

  12. Good story. Poor turtle.

    Liked by 1 person

  13. Very thoughtful story and the comparison between fat cat and toby really got the point across. Wonderful parable!

    Liked by 3 people

  14. Timelesslady says:

    Terrific post, great fables of Fat Cat and Toby the Turtle. I was in a very legalistic denomination as a child. Everyone meant well, change that, most meant well, but people manipulated others by implying anything and everything that was fun would send you to hell…television, theater, roller-skating, dancing, short sleeves or dresses, pierced ears….etc.,etc., It’s a tough way to live.

    Liked by 2 people

  15. Ann Coleman says:

    Well said, Mitch!

    Liked by 1 person

  16. Eva says:

    Brilliant article, Mr. Mitch Sheeply.

    Liked by 2 people

  17. I appreciate the way you share your message. I appreciate the length you go to make your point known without really using negativity to drill in the wrongness of it. I really appreciate the words you have shared. I am a deeply sensitive individual that is always looking to share in the love of the ONE Above that Unites us all in common love and understanding. It deeply touches me how you have shared his wisdom. I hope more grow to speak of HIM in such lovely ways, you are setting a wonderful example of how leaders of faith should be.

    Liked by 2 people

  18. martina kia says:

    Amazing analogy!! Thank you!

    Liked by 2 people

  19. Jennie says:

    Two perfect tales. Thank you, Mitch

    Liked by 1 person

  20. Pingback: Joy and Nausea | Mitch Teemley

  21. You led us there so dearly and deftly. Bless you, Mitch.

    Liked by 2 people

  22. Pingback: The Legend of Fat Cat | Mitch Teemley

  23. Mitch, you took my breath away at “There was nothing left but a shell. No legs, no head…”
    But it was completely replenished with hysterical laughter.

    Liked by 1 person

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