For many years, I have preached one summer weekend at Bald Head Island, North Carolina. Bald Head Island is known for its environmental sensitivity; preserving the forested areas even through its housing growth and caring for the wildlife that inhabit the island, especially the loggerhead turtles.
The conservancy on the island offers courses on loggerhead turtles, has strict regulations about disturbing turtle nests, and will take visitors on late-night beach hikes in hopes of seeing just one turtle in its nesting routine. Loggerhead turtles are a big deal on Bald Head Island.
One summer, upon arrival, we scampered down to the beach as the sun was setting. In the distance, we noticed dozens of people gathering so we made our way in their direction to see what was happening. When we arrived, we discovered that they had been excavating a vacant turtle nest and, to their surprise, one turtle, no bigger than the size of a quarter, emerged from the sand and began the long journey to the ocean.
To assist the process, those who had gathered, dug a twenty foot long trench in the sand. I asked, “Why don’t you just pick it up and put it in the ocean?” The reply shocked me, “We have to let the turtle imprint this journey on their mind so that dozens of years later, after countless journeys up and down the Atlantic coast, if they survive, they will return to this same beach and lay their eggs.”
Dozens of years. Thousands of miles. Same beach. The journey is imprinted so deeply within the turtle, they return to the same place and the cycle of life begins again.
We hosted my dad and mom for a five-day visit last week. Living in Iowa, we get very few opportunities to spend extended time with them. When we do, it’s almost always with many other family members. This time, we had them to ourselves.
One evening, we were sitting together in our living room; my mom and dad, Patty and me, my 17 year old son Leif and my 12 year old daughter, Siri. So, I asked my parents, “What were you guys like when you were 12 and 17 years old?” The stories were both uproariously humorous and searingly painful. Some I had known. Others I was hearing for the first time in my 50 years.
One story struck me in regard to who we are and can be in Christian community. My dad was not connected with the church when he was young, but was encouraged by his mother to go to the middle school ministry at a local Lutheran church. There, his life changed. Not an understatement. What impacted me in the story was that he remembered six specific people, some staff, some volunteers. He remembered their full names, the kind of welcome they extended to him, the encouragement they offered.
Think about that: Dozens of years later he went back to that same place, in his mind, and recalled the deep imprint these six people made on his journey of faith.
It’s Monday. Your relationships matter. Your interactions leave imprints. Peace. Kai