by Michelle Welch
“You want to WHAT?” Sweetheart gaped at me with that “here we go again with one of her hair brained ideas” look he gets when I come bounding in with my newest plan. “I want to watch the sea turtles hatch” I told him. “But it is dark. And I am comfortable. And it’s time for bed. And…….” His voice faded off as he noticed my crestfallen look. Sighing heavily he realized that it was no longer an idea, it was a plan.
He tried to look cheerful as he put on his shoes and socks, all the while muttering under his breath about vacations, sleep, middle of the night, crazy wife, etc.
It turns out that all those cages in the roped off areas along the beach next to our campground were the nesting sites of Loggerhead Sea Turtles. Earlier in the spring the female turtles had come ashore to lay their eggs on the beach where they themselves were born. It was now late summer and time for the baby sea turtles to make their appearance. I had spent the last 2 days researching the hatching rules on www.seaturtle.org. No flash photography, a red lens cover on the flashlight, no touching of the hatchlings. The list was quite extensive.
I chattered on as we walked to beach, inundating sweetheart with everything he never wanted to know about sea turtles. Did he know that the temperature of the sand can change the ratio of males to females? The hotter the summer, the more females will be born. The baby sea turtles all hatch at once and emerge as a group, usually in the middle of the night. Of the estimated 3000 eggs laid along Onslow Beach, less than half would actually hatch and slightly more than half of those would make it to the ocean. It is estimated that only one in one thousand turtles make it to adulthood.
I always wondered why, if the turtles were so endangered, the rangers didn’t just carry them from their nest to the water. I found out that the hatchlings must make the crawl from the nest to the ocean by themselves for it is in this journey that they imprint “their” beach into their memory bank. They must return here someday to lay their eggs.
Any attempt to bypass this God implanted journey will end in disaster for the turtles, causing them to lose their internal compass.
How much like the sea turtle’s journey is our own Christian walk. God has imprinted us with a desire to return to Him. He has given us a Light to guide our way. Yet He expects us to struggle through the rough parts to become strong enough to swim in the ocean.
If someone constantly protects us from the danger, we become immune to what could happen to us. If we follow the light of the world, we will wander off into the darkness and possibly not have the strength to make it back to the right path.
I learned much more than I ever imagined that night. God showed me that sometimes, although the journey may seem harder than is necessary, there is a reason behind all that He asks us to do. He also showed me that while it is ok to shine my light to help guide others along, I can’t carry them through the rough parts. They must make that journey on their own so that they will appreciate the freedom that comes at the end of their travels. And someday, when the time is right, we will all follow our internal compass back to place where it all began.
Dearest Father God, Thank You for allowing me to witness one of nature’s greatest miracles. I know that You have so much more in store for me as I move through this life. I am grateful for the people who shine their light so that I might find You in the darkness. Please help me remember that I can’t save someone by walking their walk for them. I pray that I might help guard the way for the young ones as they begin their journey back to You. In the name of Christ Jesus, Amen
Copyright © 2012, Michelle Welch, Breath of Life Women’s Ministries. Photography by Michelle Welch, all rights reserved.