One of the many blessings (and sometimes challenges) of living where we live is the abundance of wildlife. It is not unusual to see some type of creature roaming around near our house. We see some fairly common ones like deer, chipmunks, squirrels, rabbits, groundhogs, raccoon, possums, skunk. If you’re looking just a little bit harder, you can see some water-loving creatures like frogs, toads, newts. There are tons and tons of small crawly and flying things like mosquitos, bees, wasps, hornets, praying mantis, ants, beetles. We’ve also seen some bigger, scarier things around like bear, coyote, bobcats, snakes. And of course, we see birds. Lots and lots of birds. For me, it is awesome to see so many animals roaming about (unless they are choosing to do some damage to the property). Though I typically don’t go out of my way to find them, when I do see an animal I like to watch and see if they might be teaching me something about myself, about God, or about God’s creation.
The other day as I was driving home, I came across a small family of turkeys. A mom and her young‘uns. There were 5 or 6 of the little ones (I couldn’t quite tell) following the mom, all in the middle of the driveway. In my best estimation they were either looking for a bite to eat, they were taking a site-seeing road trip, or they were playing a quick game of parcheesi. I’m not 100% sure as I’m not an expert on turkey behavior or parcheesi for that matter. Regardless, there they were, minding their own business, enjoying life as a family of turkeys when my giant SUV approached. I’m sure it was quite startling. Large. White. Dirty. V8 engine rumbling. Roof rack on the top for summer kayak trips. Tires kicking up gravel as I dodged any potholes I would encounter on the way home. To those turkeys in that instant, I’m sure I appeared to be an apex predator on my way to Thanksgiving supper. I expected the turkeys to flee. To run. To fly. To hide. To get out of there as quickly as possible.
That’s not what happened.
Momma Turkey did make that snap decision. She saw me coming and quickly went into the brush, safely away from the approaching danger. I’m sure she expected her little ones to follow, but they didn’t. (Well, maybe one did…that’s where I’m not sure if there were 5 or 6 of the little ones.) Five little turkeys didn’t follow, didn’t hop off the driveway, didn’t hide, didn’t flee.
Do you know what they did?
They decided to see if they could out-trot the SUV. They started their own, little turkey trot race. 5 little turkeys vs. me. They turned, single file and began trotting down the driveway in front of the car. For a looonnnnggggg time.
Can you picture it?
A large, white, SUV creeping down the drive with five little turkeys trotting right in front of the passenger side tire.
It was quite comical…and a little bit sad.
There I was, telling the little turkeys, “Just turn! Duck off the road! (To borrow a term from another bird.) Your mom went into the bushes. Why don’t you? Go in there. Be safe. The path you are taking isn’t a good one! What is the matter with you?”
Clearly, their turkey logic had failed in that instant. Instead of choosing the quickest path to safety, they chose the longest path of peril with death and destruction breathing down their necks.
Fortunately for the little turkeys, I was not the apex predator that they likely feared. I wasn’t hungry. It’s not November. I had no intention of running over the things. Even though they felt like they were trotting away from death and destruction, no harm would befall them at my hands. The turkeys could trot the whole way to the house, and I wouldn’t let them succumb to my tires. Had I wanted to squash them I imagine I could have gotten a whole row of them without much effort; however, that was not my intent…even if the turkeys thought that it was.
So there we were…5 little turkeys, trotting down the driveway with me in my giant SUV following them. They weren’t getting away. If anything, I was getting closer.
Eventually, two of the little ones at the back of the line had a light bulb moment. They said to one another, “What if we ducked into the brush?” “Yeah. That might work.” “Let’s try it.” Off they went, escaping the giant, white monster that was in pursuit.
The other three continued on with their plan. “Let’s out-trot this thing.” It wasn’t working. I stayed right with them until eventually the two in the back of the line had a similar idea as their siblings. “What if we ducked into the brush?” “Yeah. That might work.” “Let’s try it.” Off they went, escaping the giant, white monster that was in pursuit.
Finally, there was one little turkey left. The leader. The one who was leading the entire turkey trot from the beginning. It looked like it was bound and determined to trot the whole way to the house, but then something unexpected happened…
Just as I was thinking “I guess I’m doing this the whole way home,” the turkey did something drastic.
It had spent that whole time trotting away from me in my giant SUV when it could have flown to safety at any point!
“You’ve got to be kidding me.”
That was all I could think.
How could this bird choose trotting over flying? How could this bird refrain from following its mother into the woods, lead four of its siblings down the driveway, squawk and yell, and be in fear for its life from me in my SUV and it never chose to fly before this point? Really? Trotting? Over flying? Away from a car? A big one at that? Seriously?
Yet that was the reality. That bird could have fled from danger in multiple ways at multiple points, and yet it chose the second worst option (the worst would have been a Kamikaze style attack, running straight under my tire). It could have followed its mom right away. It could have ducked into the weeds at a variety of points. It could have FLOWN. Flown! Instead, it chose trotting right down the path that I was headed. Trotting. Not flying. What a bird-brained choice.
It made me wonder…
How often do we do the same?
How often do we get a glimpse of imminent danger and choose a terrible path? Maybe it’s because of our shock, or our ignorance, or our unwillingness to change direction, but it still happens. Danger approaches. Darkness comes after us. A monster with a V8 engine is nipping at our heals and we choose to trot down the same path.
Perhaps we think “surely that thing will duck into the woods.” Or maybe we reason “I’m the best trotter I know. That won’t catch up to me. I can stay a step ahead of it.” Maybe we see our Mom dart away or hear someone say, “You really ought to get off of that path,” but we don’t listen. “What do they know? How can they help? I like this path.” We just keep trotting along as if we know that the driver of the SUV won’t hurt us, but in reality the driver is bent on obliterating us and doing everything in its power to tear us apart.
Too often, many of us choose trotting when evil approaches. We think things like, “How much is really too much? How much of ____ or ____ can I get away with before it harms me or my relationship with God?” Or “I’ll just get a little bit of the juicy news and share it with just this one person. That’s not really hurting anyone.” Or “If nobody else knows, it isn’t really a problem.” We maybe try to cut back on our sin, limit our evil, or hope that on some giant cosmic scale that our good outweighs our bad. Instead of seeing the real threat, the real danger, we minimize, ignore, or think that “It won’t happen to me.” We trot away down the same path when we should have fled long, long ago.
Romans says it this way:
Hate what is evil; cling to what is good.
David said it like this:
Turn from evil and do good;
Other translations use words like “abhor” or “flee”. Hate/abhor/despise/detest that which is evil. Flee from it. Run from it. Avoid it at all costs. Cling to what is good. Do that which is good. Seek after that which is good.
Granted. This is not possible on our own, but then again, we are not on our own. For those of us who have offered our lives to Jesus, we have been given the Holy Spirit, the very Presence of God living within our hearts, the very Spirit and power of Jesus at work within us. You remember Jesus, right? The One who would not turn rocks into bread, even while hungry. The One who would not pitch himself off of a cliff to prove that he was loved. The One who would not worship the devil to receive all of the material blessings that the devil had to offer. (See Matthew 4:1-11) That same Jesus. You have his Spirit. With you at all times. He has enabled you to do much more than trot. He has enabled you to fly.
Friend, do not be like that turkey, leading others down an ill-chosen path, failing to follow the advise of those wiser and more experienced, choosing to trot when God had given it the ability to fly. Instead, flee from those things that are evil. Heed the advice of spiritually mature believers in Christ. Lead others down the path of salvation. Rely on the Holy Spirit within you. Fly.
Fly/flee/run/sprint/do whatever you can to to escape that which is evil and bent on your destruction. Cling to that which is good. Don’t be that turkey. After all if that turkey continues with the same pattern, it will one day come across someone who is in the mood for a turkey dinner, willing to run it over. You don’t want to end up the same way…devoured and learning that your trotting had done you no good.
~ Pastor Chris