Easter Sunday will mark the first time C3 opens to the public; our “launch” if you will. I’m feeling a bit reflective at the moment, and I feel the need to warn you that this week may not be filled with my usual ridiculousness. This may change, but for now, I’m just not feeling it.
The following post was written by my friend and pastor, Jeff Hogan. He shared this story with us yesterday morning. I could simply hyperlink his blog here, and I would highly recommend that you visit his Convergence blog and check out all of his posts. Reading his blog is like reading a series of very good short stories. If you’re a musician, or simply appreciate musical goodness, check out his “Extra Stuff” on his sidebar. You’ll dig it the most. Now, on to Jeff’s story:
The sun was shining, and I was surprised at how warm I was getting. It was not particularly hot, but my load was heavy and awkward. About halfway up the hill, we paused for a moment on the gravel road and I turned to take in the view behind me. Looking out past miles of pasture and grassland, my eyes met the horizon and fixed on the mountains that stretched out as far as I could see in either direction. Turning back to our burdens, we started again up the hill.
When we had gone as far as the road could take us, we negotiated a small culvert and continued on across country. The buckets made it difficult to traverse the steep incline of the hill, but by now the destination was only a few minutes away. As we neared the top of the bluff, I thought about the objects I was transporting.
I had only chosen a few rocks, but they were significant. Most of them were pretty close in size and weight, but had specific physical characteristics. For example, one was really rough and abrasive- like sandpaper. Another was quite attractive on one side, and black on the other. Every new rock caused me to consider the instructions that were given concerning their selection: “Each should represent a deep hurt someone has inflicted on you; a wound that you continue to carry.”
Every new rock made the lesson sink in more deeply.
My final selection was unique. It was a wound that I had carried around for a very long time. No, it was actually several wounds that were all joined together with the common thread of one relationship. I knew it as soon as I saw it. Large, angular and sharp, this rock was as awkward and unattractive as the hurt that it represented.
“That thing doesn’t even fit right in your bucket,” Tamara said. “Are you sure you want to carry it all the way up the hill?” She was right. This one rock was as heavy as all the others combined. And since the diameter of my 5 gallon bucket wouldn’t accept all of the lopsided mass, adding it made the whole load awkward and top-heavy. But that was precisely the point. I didn’t want to carry its weight, but I already was. It was perfect.
We arrived at the top of the bluff, set our buckets down, and peered over the edge of the cliff. The path we followed on our ascent had circled around so that we could see the mountains again. We could also see where we had begun. Ironically, although we now stood 40-50 feet above it, we really weren’t too far away from our starting point. Had we not been carrying the stones, we could easily have made the same journey in less than half the time.
“Then Peter came to Jesus and asked, “Lord, how many times shall I forgive my brother when he sins against me? Up to seven times?” Jesus answered, “I tell you, not seven times, but seventy-seven times. (Matthew 18:21-22 NIV).”
“Therefore I tell you, whatever you ask for in prayer, believe that you have received it, and it will be yours. And when you stand praying, if you hold anything against anyone, forgive him, so that your Father in heaven may forgive you your sins (Mark 11:24-26 NIV).”
“Forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors (Matthew 6:12 NIV).”
We just stood silently for a few minutes, looking at the mountains and enjoying the cool October breeze. Then one by one, we took turns throwing our rocks off the cliff. With each toss, we expressed to God that we had forgiven the one who hurt us so deeply, and surrendered the burden of the wound to Him. When I got to my last rock- the big one- I stopped and prayed, “Lord, I’ve carried this burden around for so long that it feels like a part me. But I don’t want it, and I never did. I am surrendering everything about the situation to You, including the person.
After hurling it over the side, I watched as my rock landed on an even larger one at the bottom of the cliff and was broken.
When we can’t forgive, we load ourselves down with burdens that can be much heavier than a bucket full of big rocks. If you’re carrying a weight like this around, take it to the cross and let it go. Life is better with an empty bucket.
In Him We Live,
Near the end of the service, Jeff asked all of us to fill in a blank at the bottom of our sermon notes, tear it off, wad it up and throw it in the trash.
It simply said: “Father God, I have struggled to forgive
But with your help, I am now surrendering them to you in forgiveness.”
Here’s the thing. I’m not one to hold a grudge. I’m actually a pretty forgiving person. No doubt due to knowing first hand how destructive grudges can be. So I thought this would be a difficult exercise for me to complete. Then the answer came to me during the closing prayer. If I’m being honest, I have since thrown the paper away, but still feel like I need a giant stack of these papers to repeat the process on a daily basis. But maybe that’s okay, too:
Forgiving others, while sometimes difficult, pales in comparison when faced with the daunting task of forgiving myself. But shame is not humility, it is pride. (In my case, anyway.) Satan delights in pride — especially when the children of God dress it up as something holy and righteous. Do you have a stack of papers weighing you down? May I suggest that you wad them up and lay them at the foot of the cross? Forgive.
My blog buddy Jason’s church is also relaunching this Easter Sunday in Alaska. Would you please pray for God to do amazing things through that body of believers? Jason is a righteously super cool pastor dude with a humble heart for God. (But don’t tell him I said that.)
If you are in the Houston area, are looking for a church home, and would like to come “dig our groovy mojo” (sorry – inside joke) please contact Jeff at firstname.lastname@example.org. You can also send me an email at email@example.com. We’re freaks, but we’re friendly, people and Jesus loving freaks — promise!