Recently I went to a nearby lake and threw rocks. Not in a violent I want to destroy –things way, but in an I need to get things away from me as far as I can throw them way.
I was surviving one of those times in life when hard situations compile and compound. I had a dying grandfather, a huge life change approaching, an emotionally draining job, as well as other small things. I spent the better part of that Saturday morning sobbing on the couch. A walk to the lake sounded like a path to God’s promised peace. I got up and decided to seek that peace out.
As I began to gather warm clothes, I was interrupted. Something inside of me, perhaps my inner child, the Holy Spirit or my conscience, compelled me to pick up rocks, write on them and chuck them into the lake. It sounded therapeutic. I grabbed a pink permanent marker on my way out the door.
Still sobbing and sniveling, I shuffled over the gravel road toward the lake. Freezing rain froze rocks to the ground to my infuriation. I had to work at convincing each rock to surrender itself to my plan. I pretended the loose rocks wanted to help me. Scripture says that if we forget to speak up God will cause the rocks to cry out. I fantasized that in light of my desperation and lack of human counsel, the rocks were called into action.
I stacked gravel rocks in my pockets, rolling my eyes at the now obvious analogy that they were “weighing me down,” and I would feel “lighter” once I threw them. It angered me that these rock-counselors would insult me with such a trite lesson.
The lake was half white, the ice holding snowdrifts. The other half was a rippling reflection of the surrounding woods. I found a frozen bench and reasoned that a little fasting from warmth might shock therapy me out this emotional slime-pit. I stomped a hole in the ice. It was thin.
I rushed to my rock-task like a kid to Christmas morning. I took the first rock, and scribbled on it, “Papaw’s Cancer,” and threw it to the thin ice where it crunched through. The strength of my arm and my tendency to throw like a girl rendered the distance inadequate, but I told myself, it is better to help yourself as best as I can rather than to sit idly. I fumbled with gloved fingers for the second rock, and wrote “Hannah’s Pregnant, she, 16—I, 28 and childless.” I wrote letters on top of letters to get all of that on one rock. I chucked it. Plunk. I thought of it plunging through the black water and settling in the muck—a rock-pile diary for the lurking carp to read.
The next rocks flew out of my hand quickly. I wrote faster. “No Purpose.” “Hard to Pray.” “Not Getting Answers.” I plopped these rocks into the little hole next to my feet. Plunk. Plunk. Plunk. Why I gently dropped these I don’t know, but I enjoyed watching the water rise in slow motion, splinter into drops, then fall on my shoes. “Anger.” Plunk. “Enduring change.” Plunk. “Discomfort.” Plunk.
The last rock appeared. Time stopped. I wanted to make it good, like it was the final act in this drama. “I AM SAD” came to mind. I hated it. I wanted something specific. All good writing is specific, I thought, and I have to go out with a bang.
I wrote, “I AM SAD” anyway, in all caps, just like that. I threw it, hesitating, and it slid and stopped on the ice. Ahhh! The one rock that I never wanted to see again sat and mocked me.
“Ha! I’m still here,” it sang in the singsong voice if a third grader playing for bragging rights. Yes, I know you are here, I thought. I know that you are the sum total of all the rocks, the rock king and that you want to sit on your ice in condemnation of me.
I began to walk away, angry that this icon of my sadness sat out of my reach. I hated with vile intensity that it would remain above water with me. I wanted to scramble out on the ice and kick it down into the abyss myself, but how could I? It had won.
But had it? I looked out over that frozen expanse and realized that the rock would sink eventually. It was inevitable. It was pre-determined by the forces of nature, which were created by God himself. The ice would melt and the rock would fall, to be hidden in the depths and conquered forever.
It occurred to me later, that what stood between me and the sinking of sadness were only faith and patience. Faith that spring would come and the patience to wait for it. Faith that God would eventually wipe every tear from my eye, and patience for that day to come.
We had a warm spell that week, and the next time I went lake watching, “I AM SAD” was a conquered foe in a watery grave.