My chronic episodes of loneliness usually attacked me in the night when everyone I knew was out with the neon lights and world-erasing music.
But one time, I had an episode in the middle of the day. It happened some time after I had met the angel man in the middle of the night. This afternoon, the college campus felt more empty than usual as I made my way back to my dorm. I didn’t want to get there. There was nothing to do and no one to see. So I walked as slowly as possible on the longest route I knew.
It wasn’t long enough. And as much as I hated the emptiness around me, I was uncomfortable with seeing people. So after running into two or three strangers, I decided to get off the path. I ducked under some low branches to explore a little piece of the campus I had never seen before. It brought me to small, man-made pond. And following what must be some crazy instinct in me, I sat down next to the water’s edge and stared into it as if in a trance.
It was peaceful, but it wasn’t making me feel peaceful. The peacefulness was outside of me—all around me. While on the inside, I burned.
Every once in a while, I’d hear someone walking on the path nearby and look up to see feet through the underbrush. They passed me by without notice. I didn’t want them to notice me. But then again, if they did happen to see me, I wanted them to come running to comfort me.
Once again, I cried out to God for someone to talk to. Someone to notice me and say, “Hey, what’s wrong? Wanna be best friends? Tell me everything you feel right now.” Not that I knew how to put anything into words. Some sincere company would be nice.
“I don’t care who it is,” I told God, “I’d talk to anyone, just give me another chance! I need someone!”
There was a sound of something coming through the trees behind me. I started thanking God and turned around to meet my new best friend.
A giant turtle, big enough to ride on, slid down the slope behind me and came to rest within reach. He looked me straight in the face and then pulled himself into his shell. And sat there, unmoving.
“Har, har,” I said out loud to God. Where did this thing even come from? There was nothing behind me except a small group of trees and the sidewalk leading to the campus apartments. Surely, a turtle that big hadn’t walked across the cement path without drawing a lot of attention. Seriously, if I’d curled up into a ball, I’d be the same size as the turtle.
But then I thought, Well, maybe this was who God wants me to talk to. Maybe talking to this animal will bring me peace. …Or maybe God is laughing right now.
I considered the turtle. If it was God’s answer to my prayer, it could be therapeutic to talk to it. Or I could look like a lunatic. I made several honest attempts. I opened my mouth and then closed it again without making a sound—terrified that a real human being would hear me and laugh.
Finally I gave up. The turtle wouldn’t even poke its head out of its shell. It didn’t want to talk to me—or listen to me, rather. And as fascinated as I was at this giant (and no doubt ancient) turtle, I was starting to feel restless sitting there in what could only be God’s idea of a joke. With a small amount of anger towards the situation, I got up and pushed my way through the trees, back to the cement path, leaving my counselor behind.
And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another advocate to help you and be with you forever— the Spirit of truth.