Here's a picture from our recent 247 Prayer Room. This activity station had 2 rucksacks that people were invited to pick up and wear. The instructions were...
Choose a Rucksack
One of these rucksack is filled with rocks
The other one is filled with water
Both are heavy, but only one is useful
What are the rocks in your life?
What refreshes and sustains you, like water?
Ask God for help to put down the rocks and supply you with water.
I tried on the water rucksack, buckling it up the way a Runner would. It had a built in bendy straw thing so you could drink the water while wearing it. I wandered around the room feeling heavier than normal as the water sloshed around.
There was a treadmill at another prayer station. I ran on the treadmill with the water rucksack. I pretended to be a Runner. I imagined being super fit and drank water from the bendy straw. (Is Covid still a thing?) I ran for 10 minutes and got bored.
I swapped the water rucksack for the rock one and ran on the treadmill some more carrying the rock rucksack instead. I ran for another 10 minutes and got fed up. I am not a Runner.
I got off the treadmill, but didn't discard the rucksack of rocks.
I pottered round the room and did all the other activities. After a while, the rocks got uncomfortable. When I lay down on my stomach to write stuff and read, the weight of the rocks on my back made it hard to breathe. The water rucksack had been heavy, but had moulded to the contours of my back and distributed the weight evenly - plus it got lighter as I drank it. The rocks were always bulky and weighty and dug into my flesh through the material of the bag.
I thought and prayed about the rocks.
What are they and why do we carry them?
Some people don't have rocks (lucky them).
Some people do have rocks but don't seem to mind them. Their rocks don't cause problems because they have coping strategies and support mechanisms in place. They structure their lives wisely and are flourishing - even when life has rocks. That's great too.
Some people have rocks but deny having them - which is OK if they're still functioning for now and not ready to deal with them yet.
But what about the rocks we have that we want rid of?
What do we do with things that are heavy and damaging and just plain wearisome. Why do we lug them around when we could could be carrying the water? Or nothing at all - and just stopping regularly for coffee and cheesecake?
The reasons are many and swirled in my head until I made this flowchart. (There are probably countless other reasons why we carry rocks around but the prayer room was finishing and I had the last slot and limited time to think).
1: It’s just a season in my life, and for now, this is my rock and I need to carry it.
That’s fine! How can I help you with that? We are instructed help each other carry their heavy stuff!
'Help carry one another's burdens, and in this way you will obey the law of Christ'. (Gal 6:2)
2: I don't know what's wrong with me - I put the rocks down then pick them up again. Repeatedly...
How amazing that you KEEP putting them down. If you can't stop picking them up - then keep doing what you're doing and put them down again when you realise they are back. I salute your perseverance.
'Happy are those who remain faithful under trials, because when they succeed in passing such a test, they will receive as their reward the life which God has promised to those who love him.' (James 1:12)
3: They are a part of me- I inherited them
OK - but did you check that out recently? Because something quite remarkable and incomprehensible happened when you became a Christian. In purely physical terms, DNA isn’t as static as we once believed. Some genes get turned on and off due to environmental factors, age or injury. In spiritual terms, it gets even weirder. There was literally a BC version of you and an afterwards one.
How critical are you of thoughts like this? Check what you believe about your inheritance. Is the rock still really yours to keep? Forever?
4: It just hurts
That must be exhausting. What drugs are you on? (Honestly - Thank God for pharmaceuticals).
Also - without minimising it or denying it exists or dealing with the current real time effects of the pain, can you see this situation any other way? Could you zoom out to a viewpoint beyond the boundaries of the pain and see something bigger? (Like when Chandler goes so far over the line it becomes a dot?)
Or as Jenn Johnson sings in Gravity:
But then You come
And take me by the hand
You say come up here with Me
And then my feet came off the ground
You lifted me above the clouds
As I look down the whole world seems so small
Past the stars through space and time
And I forget what's left behind
As I'm surrounded by these grander things
Up here in perfect harmony
You're orchestrating galaxies
They're lighting up as far as I can see
Pulls me close to You
And I can breathe again
Here with You
5: It’s comforting to have the rock - even tho it’s uncomfortable and painful - it’s FAMILIAR.
I get that. After carrying something for so long, it can be scary to put it down. Who are we anyway without all our packaging and memories and experiences that brought us to this place - right here, right now?
You look like you could be a Runner, though. Why not put the rocks down and try on this rucksack instead? It's heavy, but you're strong from carrying all those rocks around. Just try it on and feel the weight of it and give it a go. The rocks will still be here if you really want them back again. Drink from this bendy straw thing when you're thirsty. Just letting you know - I've used it myself, but I wiped it afterwards and I don't have Covid.
6: OK - I might try the water thing, but honestly - I prefer caffeine. And did someone mention cake?