Jars of Rocks

IMG_0293“Will you keep it FOREVER Mommy?!” Caleb asked me earnestly as he pressed an oblong gray stone into my hand. “I want you to keep this rock forever. Promise!”

“Thank you for such a sweet present!” I remember exclaiming, over the rock. “But where should Mommy keep it?”

An empty glass canning jar sat on the counter behind us. “There!” he decided quickly, and pointed, “It can live in the jar.”

The rock made a bright jingling sound as it bounced into the jar’s bottom. It is a sound I can still hear in my memory. One big empty jar. One small rock.

But there were so many others. Rocks seemed to be the gift of choice from my son to me. And so every beach we visited, every trail we hiked, every park we enjoyed produced another precious rock that I must “keep forever.” They were so valuable to him, these rocks. They were his treasures, and he had chosen me as the honored recipient of these gifts.

I admit I didn’t think about the rocks much. I can’t say whether I planned to keep them or not. I simply just continued dropping them into the same jar, day after day. When Toby got old enough to collect rocks too, I added another jar. And so I kept right on saving rocks in jars without ever giving it much thought at all.

The boys, however – they LOVED these jars. I would find them with chairs pushed up to the bookcase, peering up to the top shelf where the jar resided. “Look!” They would speak in reverent whispers. “Our rocks. Mommy kept them ALL!” Those rocks, those little gifts, they mattered so much to them back then. They were so important.

But those days were a long time ago.

Yesterday, while unpacking an old box from at least 2 moves back, I found the jars. I lifted a throw pillow and there they were, hiding underneath, brimming full of rocks. Loose rocks rattled around in the box, because the jars had become too full to contain them all.

“Oh, won’t the boys be THRILLED to see this!” I thought to myself, and I ran to find them. They were building Lego spaceships on the table when I held up the jars in front of their faces and said, “Look! Look what Mommy found! Your rocks!”

For a moment, their faces went blank. My heart began to sink. “Don’t you guys remember? You used to collect rocks for me,” I began explaining, “from everywhere. You gave me every single one of these, and you made me promise to keep them all. And I did!!” I waited, hope caught in my throat.

“Ooooooh yeah,” Caleb said at last, “all those rocks. Huh. So you really did keep them, Mommy?”

“I did!” I sang, “Aren’t you excited?”

“Yeah Mommy,” he said slowly, “Sure. That’s neat.” And then he turned, and went back to perfecting the missile on the Lego spaceship. Toby began making shooting noises. And I stood there pondering the passage of time and the growing up of little boys. I couldn’t believe it. How could they dismiss something that had mattered so much?

Not knowing what else to do, I carried my clinking jars back to the living room. Because I am ridiculous, I did not throw them away. I set them high on a back shelf, and then just stood there and looked for a second.

In that moment, I think I heard Him. “You’ve been collecting other rocks too, Melissa.”

And it hit me: all the pain, all the difficulty, all the troubles I am facing today – every place I’m sore and wounded and every hurt I’m mending that is SO important now – in several years, aren’t those feelings going to be just like these rocks? Old news. Forgotten. Moved past. Faded into irrelevance. I steal so much time from today when I rehearse and replay the ways that people have hurt me. I allow hours for bruised feelings to fester when, one day, I won’t hardly even be able to remember what I was upset about. God willing, I will forget. Life will move on. These jagged rocks of today’s troubles will fade into the past.

“Forget the former things,” God commanded in Isaiah 43:18-19, “And do not dwell on the past. See! I am doing a new thing! Now it springs up – do you not perceive it? I am making a way in the desert and streams in the wasteland.”

I don’t want to invest in the wrong things. I don’t want to spend my time obsessing over “rocks” that are here today and forgotten tomorrow. I want my eyes to be open for the “new things” that God has planned for me. I want to be aware when He opens a way through a desert-time and when he fills my wastelands of disappointment with abundant streams of hope.

And so I prayed a prayer right then, in front of that shelf, asking God to show me the rocks: Where am I collecting anger? Why am I arguing? For what purpose do I keep hanging onto these hurts? Years from now these things won’t even matter. I asked for His help to focus on the things that DO matter instead – my kids and my family. We also won’t always be here, together like this. Why would I let any unhappiness fill up these days when joy is my Father’s gift?

I will not collect rocks.
I will collect wonder.
I will collect gratitude.
I will collect laughter.
I will collect joy.

Study Questions:
1. What type of feelings and attitudes have I been collecting?
2. Which hurts do I need to let go of today?
3. Re-read Isaiah 43:18-19. What “new thing” would I like God to do for me?

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