Meet Mack, our red-eared slider. He's a fairly content turtle, mostly hanging out in his tank and begging for freeze-dried worms, waiting for his basking light to come on. On occasion he gets a little field trip. (Whatever you do, don't let your turtle go for a joyride through a rosemary bush. It's hard to get rosemary needles out of turtle nooks and crannies.)
When it's time for his tank to be cleaned, Mack needs a temporary residence. Sometimes we put him in a tub, sometimes he gets swaddled and held, and sometimes he goes in a basket.
Now, Mack is a self-preserving soul. The first thing he does when put in a new place? Legs and head INSIDE the shell. But within a minute or two he starts to investigate. And consider a way out of this obvious trap. He'll stick his head through the hole--maybe a leg. Maybe two legs. Maybe all three appendages in three separate holes. This does not work so well.
He makes his way around the base of the basket, trying every possible exit. It doesn't work, but he persists through multiple orbits. Stuck, stuck, stuck, stuck.
Mack is a diligent soul, and he's also heavy. So that climb quickly topples the basket, and ba-da-bing--he is out of that trap, and on his way to safety. (Want to see the video?)
Returned to the basket today, he remembers the strategy, and is out again in seconds. Wait a couple of weeks, though, and he is trapped trapped trapped stuck stuck stuck again.
As individuals and as congregations, we like to think we are highly evolved, thoughtful, resourceful. But when we feel trapped? We go back to our reptile brains. We get stuck and we fall back on safe but ineffective strategies. We don't go anywhere, and we have a hard time admitting just how stuck we are. And when we finally make the leap, make the change? We're so happy to be out of that mess, but we may not carry the learning forward.
How might we reflect on and formalize our growth, so it is truly retrievable and replicable? How shall we remember that we ARE resourceful and thoughtful enough when the next challenge comes around? How can we have the confidence to know that stretching is a good thing, and the hope to know there's something worth attaining on the other side of that obstacle?