My wife believes in turtles

Father David Epps's picture

My wife, a professor of nursing, often displays a pin on her clothing that has become, for her, a favorite symbol. That symbol is a turtle.

In fact, she probably has two dozen pieces of jewelry that are, or contain, turtles. I don’t think that she really cares much for the genuine, living turtles found in ponds, forests, or oceans.

Turtles, of course, are slow, deliberate plodders. While a faster animal can cover ground in a matter of seconds or minutes, turtles take hours or days to cover the same territory. But, because of persistence and determination, they get where they intend to go, even if it takes longer than the rest of the critters in the woods.

I don’t think she adopted the turtle as her trademark until she began teaching at the University of West Georgia. There, she discovered that many students, bright, quick, and talented, for one reason or another, sometimes failed to graduate or to make a successful career as a nurse.

It is a little known fact that nursing is one of the most rigorous and demanding of majors in college. In the Bachelor of Science in Nursing program at UWG, a student is not admitted to the nursing program until their sophomore year is near or at completion.

There may be over 200 students vying for up to 90 slots. A high grade point average (at least 2.7 even to apply) and a proven track record are required. And, even if the student is admitted, the last two years will prove, in most cases, to be far more difficult and certainly more time-consuming that the first two years of college.

So, a number of students get off to jack-rabbit starts, only to falter as they run out of steam and desire.

But there are those other students — some who may have barely made it into the program or were alternates who were admitted late in the process — who are hard workers, take each day as it comes, burn the midnight oil, and just keep putting one foot in front of the other — these are the students who are the inspiration for my wife’s jewelry. These are the turtles.

These are the students who may have children at home, or who have to work part-time, or who have to dig deeper within themselves to get where they want to go. They may not have time for the social life at college and may face obstacles that others students do not face. They may get tired, they may slow down — but they don’t quit.

Some of these students may be older, having raised a family already. College work may be more difficult for them in the beginning.

A few years ago, in North Georgia, I stopped at an all-night convenience store. The clerk behind the counter was 53 years old and was raising her grandson by herself. She was also a college student, going to school during the day, and had one semester left until she graduated, took the Boards, and became a registered nurse.

I thought of my wife, and turtles, when I left the place at 11 p.m.

The other day, I was traveling down a four-lane highway and, there in the middle of the road, with traffic heading its way, was a box turtle trying to cross the road. The temperature must have been 94 degrees and I can only imagine how hot the asphalt must have been.

I pulled to the side of the road and, before the oncoming cars could reach him, I picked up the turtle and took him to the car. He (or she — I don’t know how to make that determination when it comes to turtles) was obviously unhappy that I had interrupted his journey.

I turned the car around, drove down a side road in the direction the turtle had been heading, and released him in a field near a pond. As he plodded off into the underbrush to resume his journey, I thought of the turtles in my wife’s jewelry box and the turtles in her classrooms, each precious and beautiful in its own way.

It took me six years to finish college, 11 to finish seminary, and, so far, seven to almost complete a doctorate (only the dissertation remains). There were interruptions, military service, relocations, family obligations, tragedies, heartaches, and all sorts of obstacles.

But, true to form, my wife was there encouraging me, urging me forward, picking me up and helping me move, every step of the way. My wife, you see, believes in turtles.

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muddle's picture
Submitted by muddle on Sat, 07/28/2007 - 11:46am.

Over twenty years ago I took classes under William Lane Craig, a well-known and very widely-published Christian philosopher. (I think it takes more paper just to list the titles of his many publications than the amount taken for the full text of all of my publications combined!)

One day, a student asked him how he managed to be so prolific. How did he get so much written? His answer: "The turtle method."

He told us of a friend who had been in graduate school with him. This friend, he said, was far brighter than himself with much more potential. But what the friend lacked was the diligence to plod along on a project and see it through to the end. His friend (also a friend of mine), though brilliant, wound up bailing out of his grad program.

Dr. Craig, on the other hand, had the ability to stay on track with a project, even amid distractions, and steal a half hour here or an hour there to make steady progress to see projects through to their completion.

So I think there is something to what you say here.

Submitted by dollaradayandfound on Sat, 07/28/2007 - 2:17pm.

I need a little help with that one, please.
I thought the only place you might get to the top by plodding was in the civil service! You don't even have to be a Christian.
You might explain to me the differences in a Christian philosopher and a non-Christian philosopher.

muddle's picture
Submitted by muddle on Sat, 07/28/2007 - 3:42pm.


A "Christian philosopher" is, I believe, a philosopher who happens also to be a Christian. (E.g., Craig, Plantinga, VanInwagen, Yandell, etc.)

A naturalist philosopher is a philosopher who happens to be a naturalist. (E.g., Dennett, Sober, Dretske, etc.)

A Buddhist philosopher.....

Did I say "plodding"? The idea is perseverance.

And the professor I mentioned was entirely too humble. He's brilliant, as anyone who has grappled with his ideas knows.

Submitted by dollaradayandfound on Sat, 07/28/2007 - 4:23pm.

The word Christian in front of a title seems odd to me. I was raised Christian, but we would never say a Christian Doctor, or a Christian Baseball player, etc.
Possibly "philosophers" do make the distinction for good reason. That is what my question was about.
I do hope that all those philosophers before Christ, and all those since who are not or were not Christians aren't considered in some way preaching questionable subjects only!
It is not my belief that non-Christians are all lost.

Mixer's picture
Submitted by Mixer on Sat, 07/28/2007 - 2:09pm.

The talented and swift that lack perseverance could be illustrated by the 'hare'. You could use your 'turtle' to ... wait ...hummmmm ... deja vu?

Do you want to see some current examples of liberal media bias? Click Here.

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