The True Tale of Toby the Turtle


My Real Memoir

Shortly after the legendary Fat Cat incident, our neighbors matched it with an equally outrageous one involving their beloved Toby the Turtle. Odd pet? Hardly. Half the kids I knew had tiny pet turtles living in plastic lagoons on their bedroom dressers. Many families ended up flushing them down the toilet (resulting in an outbreak of sewer-dwelling ninjas in the 80s). But our neighbors the Cartingers couldn’t bear to part with Toby, and he eventually grew to be the size of a dinner plate.

Although Toby wandered incessantly, he 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 banister of the stairs.

Toby was now free to roam, and 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 powerful miniature jet pack, Toby zoomed into view, shot down the stairs at roughly eight million miles per 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.

Fast-forward 20 years, when one day it struck me that there was a parable in the dual Fat Cat and Toby stories.

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 dangerously capricious 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. 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

My Real Memoir is a series. To read the next one, click here.

About mitchteemley

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

35 Responses to The True Tale of Toby the Turtle

  1. grAnnie Roo says:

    One of your top 10 best posts, Mitch. Happy New Year.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. rebecca s revels says:

    So very well said.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. K.L. Hale says:

    I’ll comment on what I love the most-God. What a great illustration of the depth of God’s love, Mitch. On to the 2nd most important–Toby! Oh my goodness, I’m so glad he got over the shock and came out. Like you stated, I’ll stick to being a sheep. Baaaa, Mitch!

    Liked by 3 people

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

  5. stolzyblog says:

    Interesting insights on your part. If we say turtles are people who do not grasp Grace, then we can characterize their deviation from Truth as being a result of fear. If we say fatcats are people who do not grasp Sin, then we can characterize their deviation from truth as pride. So the remedies, towards sheephood (or I might prefer Lambhood) is a blending balance of courage and humility.

    Liked by 3 people

  6. Gail Perry says:

    Love it! Baaaaa….

    Liked by 1 person

  7. Oh my! Poor Toby! And shame on me for laughing out loud! :/ What a great picture of the Pharisee, and Fat Cat as the liberalists – the “cheap grace” folks. Excellent post, Mitch.

    Liked by 1 person

  8. Dana says:

    Wonderful conclusion, thank you!

    Liked by 1 person

  9. Insightful. Also, any post that makes a Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle reference is okay in my book.

    Liked by 1 person

  10. pastorpete51 says:

    Love Toby’s story. What a wonderful yarn! Okay I couldn’t resist the pun but really this is a memorable and touching lesson. Thanks Mitch 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  11. Gary Fultz says:

    What great illustrations Mitch. I look for and keep a file on stories at great illustration for my speaking at camps and special events. If you don’t mind I’ll use them (with credits).

    Liked by 1 person

  12. #hood says:

    the lord & the land will be glad; the wilderness will rejoice & blossom. john 35:52
    rewind to the age of your father at death, mitch.


  13. I’ll be honest, I was wondering where the turtle thing was headed at first. Lol. But what a beautiful illustration to put all of us Christians in our places.

    Liked by 1 person

  14. Wonderful post. I have met these two example and others. I pray I am not one of them.

    Liked by 1 person

  15. Pingback: The True Tale of Toby the Turtle – CURIOSIDADES NA INTERNET

  16. Nancy Ruegg says:

    You took me by surprise with your object-lesson conclusion. Fat Cat and Toby made perfect analogies for your points! Another great post, Mitch.

    Liked by 2 people

  17. gregoryjoel says:

    I loved it Mitch! I’m not sure the fat cats truly know grace if they don’t know sin. Sometimes I think of how much grace I’ve received and I’m in awe. That’s love…

    Liked by 1 person

    • mitchteemley says:

      Oh, I very much agree, Gregory, and that’s why I added an “about” before the word grace. To truly know or understand the meaning of grace you do indeed have to have experienced it.


  18. Matilda Novak says:

    that is So perfect…..thank you.

    Liked by 1 person

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