My family collects rocks. Not just any rocks. Rocks that are shaped and sized for a special purpose. One that fits in the palm of my hand, or in my daughter’s two miniature hands put together. A rock that’s mostly smooth, with a flat surface. On hot days, we lay out one of daddy’s giant drop cloths on the tiled kitchen floor, and my girls strip down to underwear and diaper, and we paint our collection. Layer over layer of paint forms swirls of color like the blur of a moving pinwheel. When they dry, I take a Sharpie and mark them with words. Words that carry stories, purpose, and promises, more than their one syllable can contain: HOPE, GRACE, TRUTH, LOVE, JOY, TRUST.
I set them in plants and throughout the garden. But somehow our rocks seem to find their way back to the doorstep beside the welcome mat, like a cairn that marks our way home.
Our rocks remind me of lasting truths, in a rapidly changing and fast moving world of unspoken challenges to do something; to be someone.
One word commands twist in my head like the roar of a helicopter’s spinning rotors, their deafening demands distract me from my true identity as a child of God. Produce. Create. Solve. Smile. Do. Achieve. Demands that suffocate my passion and purpose and create a vacuum for my soul.
Before David was the famous giant slayer, or a great king, he was first a humble shepherd. I don’t know when David wrote Psalm 23, but I do know that of all the illustrations he could have pulled from, David tugs at his experiences as a shepherd, to unravel a poem that challenges the notion that contentment is found in castles and admiring crowds. No, he doesn’t find rest in his bed made with silk sheets, or on the shoulders of the cheering crowd at the feet of the fallen Goliath. He finds rest in the quiet of God’s creation under the reassuring whispers of a Father that loves him.
“(The Lord) makes me lie down in green pastures,
heleads me beside quiet waters,
he refreshes my soul.”
When I don’t take the “green pasture / quiet water” kind of time I need with God for soul restoration, I allow my heart cup to be filled with the praise and approval of others. I look to others for my truth and my identity.
When I don’t look to my Creator for a reminder of who He is, I begin to believe the lie that I myself am the creator. I create my life, I manufacture my own success, and I merit my blessings. I smugly fill myself up with my own achievements and the high fives and compliments of a job well done. I become bloated with the pride of my own performance, while my soul starves for truth. In this state I can go through the motions of life, propped up by expectations of others and fueled by the pressure I put on myself, but deep down I know that its an elaborate performance. Under the thick makeup and exquisite costume is a girl that longs to be free.
Like a cat, I’ve lived nine lives. Each of them torn down when the illusion was no longer maintainable. High school cheerleader. sorority socialite, party girl, actress, college creative, traveler, devoted girlfriend, business owner, perfect pastor’s wife. Again and again God gently whispers to me, reminding me that my true life is at His feet, in the truth of His light.
But even in the Old Testament, we see God’s people needing that reminder. In the book of Joshua, when the Lord miraculously parts the Jordan River for the Israelites to pass to safety, God commands Joshua to have the leader from each of the twelve tribes, pick up a stone from the center of the river bed as they cross. God commands them to put the stones at their camp by the waters edge, to stand as a reminder for them and future generations of Who God is, and what He has done for His people.
Yes even when God is in my midst working miracles, I can become forgetful and complacent. I need to be reminded by His Word who I am in Him. I do this with bible verses scrawled on my mirrors, on chalk boards, post it notes, and notebooks. But sometimes it means pausing and remembering all the rivers God has lead me across, the dark valleys He has lead me out of. and the people He has lead me to. My people collect rocks to help us pause and enjoy something simple, together as a family, as we let God’s truth soak in, rock by rock.
Recently I visited a dear friend’s house for the first time. As I walked up the path to her front door, I saw colorfully painted rocks heaped in a pile on the edge of the steps. When I asked about them, she explained that her in-laws collect the rocks at the beach every summer with the kids, and then they paint them together. “They help my kids remember,” she said simply. I smiled. My rocks help me remember too. Remember that I am a mom, a wife, a dreamer, a believer, a storyteller. That I am chosen, cherished, precious, forgiven, and called. But most importantly, that he picks me for a special purpose; and that He holds me in the palm of His hand.
“As you come to Him, the living stone, rejected by men, but chosen and precious in God’s sight, you also, like living stones, are being built into a spiritual house to be a holy priesthood, offering spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ. For it stands in Scripture: “See, I lay in Zion a stone, a chosen and precious cornerstone; and the one who believes in Him will never be put to shame.”…1 Peter 2:4-6