When I buy a new purse, I vow to keep it as pristine as it is at that moment. But, inevitably, as time passes, the clutter of life creeps in. It starts with loose change, crumpled receipts, an extra pair of gloves, and several lozenges. By the time the straps crack and give up the fight against gravity’s irresistible pull, I am astonished at the variety and volume of junk that’s somehow appeared in my bag: a bulky bluetooth speaker, an entire (and important!) file folder, a wadded up cardigan, and other daily detritus.
It’s easy to gather more than we need…
Our spirituality can be like my purse. Without even realizing, we pick up what we think we need to navigate life. Have you ever picked up bad spiritual habits? I have. Our Christian freedom can be a double-edged gift. What’s worse, it’s so easy to slip into routines or modes of thinking that hinder me, or dim my light.
…especially when we feel vulnerable…
And then come the moments that hurt. We never want to feel those pains again, so we gather up what we can to protect ourselves. If our hands are full of stones, we can build a defense – a wall, maybe. Or, in an emergency, we can launch a stone at an enemy. We can do real damage. And if that enemy turns out to be a brother or sister, it would be their own fault for approaching us when we were defensive. They should have known better. It’s only collateral damage.
But we weigh ourselves down…
But, at least in my own life, the defenses I create are weak and ineffective. The walls I build are rickety and full of holes. The stones I pitch at others often glance off the Enemy, or worse, strike someone I love, instead.
In fact, my attempts at protecting myself are pretty pathetic. All the stones I collect do little else than weigh me down. Much like my purse at its breaking point, all the things I thought I needed become burdens – heavy weights that wear me down.
…and miss out on the lightness and freedom that could be ours.
Stones that fill my hands keep me from doing the work to which I’m called. Instead of spending my energy in the acts of creation, I am focused on fear and destruction. If I’m afraid of pain, I will spend all my time thinking of pain, see every approaching figure on the horizon as a possible enemy. I miss out on the time I could spend giving my gifts to the world when I’m focused on gathering stones.
We’re free when we let go of what’s filling our arms…
I have to admit that I’m not very good at protecting myself. Despite my hyper-vigilance, my strategies, and my determination, I still live in a chaotic world, one that I don’t fully understand and can’t fully see. There are dangers, there are threats, there are enemies. In my own power, the best I can do is gather stones around me.
While there may be times when a smooth stone, well-slung, can take down a giant, gathering stones to hold on to them is never very practical. So I must come to the point of realization: the most powerful thing I can do with all these stones is to walk away from them. I have to leave my heap of rubble, and open my clenched hand so the stones fall to the dust, where they belong.
…and reach out to Him.
The freedom is disorienting at first. I have grown so accustomed to the weight that when it’s gone, it seems like I can float off the earth. And, maybe I can a little, because my hands are free to raise them to Heaven.
But am I safe?
Safer than ever. The only reasonable defense against chaos is order, so I surrender to the protection of the One who designs an orderly creation, who desires order in my heart, and who will ultimately bring chaos into submission.
Are your hands full of heavy stones? Maybe today is the day for you to cast them away!
Cole Smith is a writer and teacher in West Virginia. She’s the author of the cozy mystery, Waiting for Jacob, and enjoys good coffee and great stories. She shares inspiration, encouragement, and tips for creative overwhelm at http://www.colesmithwrites.com.