Clearing out the rocks.

Eight years ago, I wrote this story:


Jesus was talking about different kinds of dirt. Dirt that is full of rocks does allow seeds to sprout, but there is no place for the roots to go. The eager sprouts die with hot sun and no roots.

Our hearts pick up all kinds of stones, all kinds of hard places. Little conflicts. Big betrayals. Persistent resistance. They accumulate. A day at a time, almost without noticing. Eventually, they fill most of the space under the layer of polite topsoil. Seeds start, ideas germinate, and then burn up, stopped by rock-hard memories.


Some of us work hard to please people. We take on a project, say, to find the right image for a scene we are constructing. We look at cemeteries all over the county, trying to find just the right designs for grave stones. The project ended up as a success. When I drive past those cemeteries, I remember the stress of the search.

I once taught an “Intro to College” course. I taught about mnemonics. They are memory devices, things that are easy to remember that remind us of the thing that matters. “Every good boy does fine” is a way to remember that the staff lines in treble clef are E G B D F. “Righty-tighty, lefty-loosy” is a mnemonic for tightening bolts. And an old cemetery is a mnemonic of inadequacy and insecurity.

Eventually, these daily rocks of stress and fear and pleasing and obligation become so heavy we are paralyzed. Everywhere we turn, we are reminded of our own failure.

But maybe it’s time to stop carrying so many rocks.

The Israelites weren’t told to carry the rocks from the Jordan. They were told to pile them. The stones were a reminder, not a burden. In the last two weeks I’ve faced situations from almost every era of my life. Each time, I am leaving a few stones. I’m good with reminders. I’m getting rid of some burdens.

I didn’t need to pick them up in the first place.


2022 Update: I still flinch, a little, when I see those cemeteries. When I scroll through old pictures, looking for photos to illustrate these posts, I see reminders of challenging moments, hard events. I could, of course, edit my photo files. I could empty my pockets. I clear out the rocks. I could decide things are done.

I could remember what has worked.

I could pick the rocks out of my heart to let things grow.