We like turtles around here. However, I must say that the biggest turtle enthusiast in our family is my husband. He’s the one who knows the interesting facts, has found rare turtles species in the wild and knows how to pick up a snapper without getting snapped. It’s an affinity that began for him in his childhood, and was one of the things I immediately liked about him when we first met—and still do.
If we’re lucky, one will come through our yard at some point around this time of year, looking for that perfect place to lay her eggs, and he’ll take the girls to trail along at a respectful distance to watch in fascination. He’ll turn our vehicle around when we pass one along the road, and go back to get a closer look. If said turtle happens to be toiling across the middle of a treacherous highway, he’ll help it the rest of the way across in hopes that it will avoid getting crushed by a car. Sometimes, if we’re not along, he’ll even bring a particularly interesting one home for the rest of us to see. I’ll hear him drive up, then call in through the door, “Hey, come on out here girls!” and I’ll know without him saying another word that he has a turtle to show us. He was totally using his I-found-a-turtle tone of voice. He’ll show the girls their pretty painted shells or how they can snap a stick in two, and then he tells them stories about the turtles he caught and saw when he was a boy. (Yep, he’s pretty cool.)
But me? While I do have nice childhood memories of watching for turtles sunning around the edge of a pond we passed during family walks, oddly enough, the first memory that comes to mind when I see a turtle is also one of the biggest Biblical disappointments I ever received as a child. There was a verse my mom would read us in the spring, from the beloved lyrical King James Version we were raised on. It goes like this:
“For, lo, the winter is past, the rain is over and gone; the flowers appear on the earth; the time of the singing of birds is come, and the voice of the turtle is heard in our land.” (Song of Solomon 2:11-12)
As a child, my imagination was completely captured by the idea that a turtle could have a voice. The turtles I knew did not make any sounds, so I imagined that the author was referencing some sort of exotic Middle Eastern variety of turtle, or even perhaps a variety of turtle that has since gone extinct. And since it was described as “heard in our land”, and referenced in poetry, surely that must mean that it was a distinctive and compelling voice. I imagined it as some cross between the sound of a crocodile and a frog, but a bit more musical.Imagine my disappointment, then, when one day we decided to dig a little deeper into the actual Greek behind the Scripture reference and found out that “turtle” was just an abbreviation for “turtle dove”. Of course that made more sense, but my childish fancy had been crushed. I never quite got over the disappointment.
A few years later, as an adult, I discovered that the Bible did support the idea of talking turtles.
“And I heard every creature in heaven and on earth and under the earth and in the sea, and all that is in them, saying, “To him who sits on the throne and to the Lamb be blessing and honor and glory and might forever and ever!”“ (Revelation 5:13)
And just like that my fanciful notion became a future reality, and I went from being charmed by the idea to sort of quaking in my shoes at the awesomeness of it. One day, the voice of the turtle will be heard in the land, along with an innumerable host of others that are currently voiceless (skunks! salamanders! butterflies! etc!).
Now think about that.