Walking down Life’s Trail had become a challenge. Early on it was pleasant. From time to time someone would pass by, walking at a brisk clip. He or she might be singing or whistling. Sometimes we’d exchange “hello,” but usually no one walked alongside very long.
Never mind, I found many things to look at and the solitude was a situation I could enjoy. I’m not sure exactly when I began to notice the rocks near the trail. I think I was about 16 years old then, and goodness, look how long ago that was.
Before long I decided to collect rocks. Perhaps they were collecting me. At any rate, a growing fascination filled my once-carefree mind. Let me be more specific.
The trail traversed mountains and valleys, through forest and desert with rocks of all kinds, colors, shapes and sizes.
Once, I noticed an outcropping near the trail. One fist-sized piece was shiny black. I looked deeply into it and thought I saw an ugly depiction of war. I tossed the strange specimen into my backpack for later study.
The next day I spotted a gleaming turquoise rock about the size of my foot. Wow, what a beauty. Looking into it there were glimpses of a friendship I’d known back in Iowa. I added it to my backpack.
From then on I paid more attention to other rocks along the way, some smooth, some very sharp and rugged. Each was so individual, so mesmerizing. Before I knew it my backpack was bulging. The weight I carried now slowed down my walking, strained my muscles.
That night as I took it off I realized there were blisters on my shoulders. Then, as I settled into the deep quiet of camping a little ways from the trail I gradually became aware of small sounds coming from my backpack. The combined noises, some happy and lilting, some dreadful like screaming or moaning filled my ears, my mind, my heart. It became a sleepless night under a pitch-black sky.
Look what I’m doing to myself, I announced to myself in the morning with growing realization of the truth. I’m collecting sharp-edged troubles, voluminous problems, hurtful specimens of painful tragedies. There were solidified disturbances from snitches of TV news and movies that had clung like static to my hands when I had picked them up days ago.
Oh, I had added to my collection a number of beautiful rocks. Some were the size of mere specks, flakes of fleeting joy, good humor, a few were bright sunset-reflecting stones. Others were striated, or had sheen, bumps, or dimples.
All together I had been gathering a collection that was too heavy for me to carry. And, the vibrations emanating from some of the rocks had grown festering and fearsome.
“Good Lord, what am I supposed to do?” I exclaimed aloud, not really expecting a reply from Him.
My desperation was an honest expression, and amazingly God Himself spoke to me in firm, yet tender tones. “My child, all along your life’s journey you will see rocks. Some are troubles, problems, sinful actions. Do pay attention as you are walking. These bad things will remind you of how much you need to talk to Me. Let Me show you the truth about what you see.”
As I began to pull out stones from my dusty backpack a sweet peace was beginning to enter the spaces in my heart that had been filled with uncertainties and strife. I realized that He was walking with me. “Oh, thank You, Father!”
God went on, “Do not carry the troubles of the world on your back. To others who come along life’s pathway you should point out the truth, and they could heed the lesson. Some people are not yet at the place of an honest commitment to Me. Bless them with a prayer as they walk by. Do not let their confusion or bad behavior fill your backpack with sharp stones of ugly rejoinders.”
Then I saw the simplicity of the situation; look at the rocks, ascertain what they represent, but do not pick them up to carry them. I was not responsible to God for where they lay, and I could not fix their harmful history.
To allow myself to be overwhelmed with wickedness or pain, with deceit or disappointment was to take up defeat and hold it in my hands. This I must no longer do.
My conversation with God is not to tell Him what He does not know, or advise Him of what to do. My words begin with acknowledging Who He is. I praise Him for putting me here on this particular path at this particular time. He deserves my respect, my honor, my gratitude.
This new attitude is not a resolution, not a performance for others, not a heavy stone in my backpack. Rather, it is an honesty born with tears of surrender, submission, and trust.
My busy mind can ponder the possibilities of this walk, the scenery along the path, and even wonder about its ending. But my spirit travels without a heavy pack of troubles. Daily, moment by moment I receive His forgiveness and His friendship. The Lord and I share today and each day in unexpected ways of joy and freedom.
Without all those rocks in my backpack I can skip along, bend to admire the flowers, look up to watch the birds tucked in branches of nearby bushes or soaring in the turquoise sky.
Are you carrying too many rocks? Is your pack bulging with heavy weights and sharp memories? You don’t know how much farther your personal life’s trail will be, so let me encourage you to stop and ask yourself some pertinent questions: What rocks am I carrying? Why? Can I trust God, or not? Be honest with your answers. Then take time to talk to God and pay careful attention as He speaks.
Life is too short to spend staggering under too many rocks!
by Elaine Hardt ©2008