Sunday, July 20, 2008

Honor Your Instincts

Yesterday, while wandering with my camera, I came to a lush, roadside garden. Upon emerging from my car, I noticed a medium-sized snapping turtle slowly inching its way up the garden owner's driveway. It was heading towards the road. It's slow pace afforded me plenty of time to investigate the garden, snap some photos of hollyhocks and still meet it before it reached the road.
Across the road was a field of honey-colored straw, bordered by a shallow ditch of wildflowers. The turtle was intent on reaching the field. I stood by the road side at a comfortable distance from the turtle. This allowed it to feel I was not a threat and to keep its steady pace. I had no idea why the turtle needed to get to the field, but I was going to honor its instinct and guard its passage across the road, waving at oncoming traffic.
When the snapper reached the yellow mid-line in the road, a van pulled up, stopped, and out hopped a woman. "Oh, a snapping turtle!", she exclaimed. Yes, I said, it's crossing over to the field. "Well, there's no water in that field!", she said. "There's water back where it came from. It shouldn't go to the field". And with that, she went right up to the turtle, nudged it with her shoes and forced it to turn around. She duck-walked behind it at a quick pace and ushered it back to where it had begun. She forced it onto the grass and said, "There now, that's better." She gave her hands a satisfied swipe, hopped back into her van and off she went.
There now, that's not better. This woman was not the saviour she felt she was. She intruded on an intent and decision that was not hers to alter. She unknowingly dishonored natural instincts. The instincts implanted in all of God's creations. The instincts turtles, flowers, spiders and humans possess. I have no doubt the snapper would makes its way back across the road to whatever in the field had called it to come. I said a little prayer for its safe passage and went on my way.
If we are deaf to our own instincts, if we regularly dismiss the inner nudges and knowings, we are more likely to interfere in the instinctual lives others are leading. We will impose our snap judgements and advice too quickly. We will unwittingly alter right passage and rights of passage for those we are imposing our will on. We will screw things up for others and cause them to doubt their inner voice. We will cause damage.
Let's assess situations more carefully. Let's stop giving knee-jerk advice that stems from our own bag of fears. Let's honor the nudges and voices within. Let's find out where they lead us. Sometimes we must leave the water and head for the dry fields. Bounty and glory and newness await us. When we honor our own instincts, everyone benefits, everyone is honored.


  1. This is such a beautiful sentiment and a great lesson for this Sunday (and every day after:)

  2. So you didn't interfere with the interference and put it back where it was, eh?

    How very zen.

  3. We used to live out in the country and similarly a large snapping turtle made his way across our front yard. To my knowledge there was no water very near in any direction. My sons thought we should take him someplace where there was water. I said no and told them that the turtle knew what he was doing, where he was going, and why. So though we watched him progress across our yard and on to the next, we didn't disturb his route. I don't know what became of him, but I assumed he was safe in God's hands and in the direction he was being led.

  4. I don't think I can hear this message enough! After a lifetime of being taught to trust the judgement of one expert or another, listening to oneself requires a completely new paradigm! I wonder what would happen if enough people trusted that instinct, that still, small voice. Some say it would be chaos. I disagree. I think we'd discover there exists a natural system -- an order -- to life that we'd never imagined.


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