Sticking Your Neck Out


Years ago somebody gave me a molded turtle with the following inscription: “Behold the turtle who only makes progress when he sticks his neck out.”  There is a lot of truth that little statement. This is not a Bible verse, but rather a well-known quote from the American scientist James Bryant Conant.

I thought of that turtle – safe in my office today – when I went on a long bicycle ride north on M15. I saw the remains of about one dozen turtles that stuck their necks out to cross the road, but did not make it. They did make progress, but lost their lives doing it.

While it is true we often cannot make progress without sticking our necks out, sticking our necks out alone cannot ensure progress. To be sure, I don’t expect turtles to be able to calculate the speed and distance of cars coming from both directions and compare it to his own speed and motivation to cross that two lane road before he sticks his neck out and makes the first big step. But, we humans can do what turtles cannot do.

First, we can think. The writers of Proverbs challenge us to think and live wise lives.  We are not to be foolish by ignoring obvious dangers and obstacles. We may still choose to stick our necks out and cross the road, but we are doing so with our eyes wide open to the dangers and the challenges.  Disappointment and despair are often the results of lunging forward in denial of the dangers.

Second, we can pray.  The Lord cares about our decisions and our future. “The steps of a good man are ordered by The Lord.” In Proverbs 3 we are reminded that God will direct the paths of those who will trust in Him completely and lean not on their own understanding.

Psalm 37 shares some truths that will help us with these hard decisions. “Delight yourself in The Lord and he will give you the desires of your heart. Commit your way to The Lord; trust in him, and he will act. Be still before The Lord and wait patiently for him.”  I am so glad that we can come to The Lord in prayer and he will give us the wisdom for decision-making.

Third, we can believe. The preacher of Ecclesiastes challenges the believer to take risks. Some people are so cautious observing the wind and will not sow or gazing at the clouds and will not harvest (11:1-4). We can trust a God who loves us, knows us well and wants to see us prosper.  Our belief is in God and not our own abilities.

My life does not have to be like the remains of turtles littering the shoulders of M15. I have the God-given abilities to think through options, assess the cost and dangers, pray for wisdom and direction … and then stick my neck out to make progress.