Sunday, January 29, 2012

Heart-Stones

"Be careful, however, that the exercise of your freedom does not become a stumbling block to the weak." - 1 Cor 8:9

At dawn he appeared again in the temple courts, where all the people gathered around him, and he sat down to teach them. The teachers of the law and the Pharisees brought in a woman caught in adultery. They made her stand before the group and said to Jesus, "Teacher, this woman was caught in the act of adultery. In the Law Moses commanded us to stone such women. Now, what do you say?" They were using this question as a trap, in order to have a basis for accusing him. But Jesus bent down and started to write on the ground with his finger. When they kept on questioning him, he straightened up and said to them, "If anyone of you is without sin, let him be the first to throw a stone at her." Again he stooped down and wrote on the ground.
At this, those who heard began to go away, one at a time, the older ones first, until only Jesus was left, with the woman still standing there. Jesus straightened up and asked her, "Woman, where are they? Has no one condemned you?"
"No one, sir," she said.
"Then neither do I condemn you," Jesus declared. "Go now and leave your life of sin."
John 8:2-11


When I was a child, I learned the lesson "We do not throw rocks." This is an important lesson when one has a little brother (who you often fight with) and when every inch of West Texas is covered in potential ammunition. Rocks are dangerous. Never throw rocks, especially at other people.

Yet for some reason, I really liked rocks. I liked to search for pretty rocks and sometimes I would keep them. Sometimes I liked rocks for their shape or color, but sometimes I liked the rocks for their weight. A nice smooth rock, with a nice weight to it: just perfect for throwing. I liked to hold rocks like that, just feeling the weight in my palm, bouncing it a few times, testing it. Such a satisfying feeling, carrying that rock. A feeling of power and confidence. Imagining that rock flying, the feeling as it leaves my hand, and the ever so satisfying "thud" as it lands. Indeed, some rocks seem made for throwing.

But throwing rocks wasn't allowed, so I often just carried them around, feeling the weight and thinking about throwing.


Even now, as an adult, I still like rocks. I like the texture and shape of rocks and things built with rocks. When I take pictures, they are usually of flowers or rocks. Great joy is found when I can take pictures of both!

Unfortunately, I noticed something else this week. I like stones as well. Not stones as in the physical, synonym to rocks kind, but as in the "let he who has no sin..." kind. (see above Bible passage) The judgments, condemnations, jealousy against others, the desire to somehow punish the other person for living in a way I don't approve of. Petty, judgmental stones of condemnation.

Oh yes, I like these. I have quite the collection. I gather them up and look at them with pride, self-righteousness and the knowledge that I am "right" in my views. But somehow I've intuitively remembered that long ago rule "we do not throw rocks." given to me as a child. So I rarely throw these stones at the person in question. Sometimes I throw them in a tirade of self-righteous opinionating, but they are pretty heavy and don't go too far. So after I've had my bout of complaining and feel satisfied with the many "thuds" of my stones, I bend down and gather them all up again. After all, they are too nice to waste. I might want to use them again.

So I walk around in daily life with my heart full of stones I don't want to put down. And I wonder why I feel so heavy inside. Why is love so elusive?

....

.........

.....

This week, while I was examining some of my precious stones I was struck with a gentle rebuke from a trusted friend (who also happens to be my roommate, which gives her better opportunities for such things as encouraging and rebuking.) The stone in my hand suddenly falls to the ground with a resounding "thud." But this time it is not the thud of satisfaction, it is instead a thud of shock and shame.

Reality comes pouring in. The Voices of Reproach stumble over each other in their eagerness to make their accusations heard.

"What have I been doing all this time? Why in the world have I been carrying around such STUPID things?!? Who do I think I am, judging people as if I were better than them?!?! How arrogant can you get?"

(yes, the Voices of Reproach tend to lean on the dramatic side... They can also be called Drama Queens.)


Suddenly I can understand the people in John 8 a little better now. I wonder how many of those men walked away in anger, frustrated because they weren't able to throw their beloved stone? How many took their stones home and buried them in their hearts? How many heard Jesus' words, really heard them, and put down their stones right then and there, leaving them behind and embracing repentance?

The hearts of those men are only known to God, but the stone free heart of Jesus has been made open to us.

If only we would notice.


I'm thankful for a roommate who can challenge me with questions like "Why is it your responsibility to judge or punish that person for their lifestyle choices? What right do you have to do that?" I'm thankful for accountability in a world where conservative Christianity is associated with hate, judgment and unforgiveness. I'm thankful for a Jesus who says "then neither do I condemn you. Go now and leave your life of sin."

And I'm thankful to be burdened with one less stone in my heart today.


In the Old Testament, back in the days of Abraham, Issac and Jacob, altars were made with natural, uncut stones. You gathered up a bunch of big ones, then made a big pile that was flat on top. Then you offered your sacrifice upon it.

I think I'd like to make an altar of the accumulated stones in my heart, and then use it to sacrifice my pride and self-righteousness that I have been holding so dear.

Maybe that would help me not pick them back up again.


Here's to a future of putting down stones and building altars instead of carrying them around.

3 comments:

Nilu said...

What an amazing blog...I want to stay here forever!

Forgiven Child said...

Truly a beautiful lesson. Today I realized I have a collection of "stones" as well. They are not necessarily the stones of judgements against those who I come casually into contact with~ but stones I throw at myself when I remember the person I used to be. Satan has a way of putting those stones in the perfect place that they are best suited as self inflicting weapons of warfare. I am happy to have encountered your blog today. Setting the record straight, and reminding me of his unfailing love for each of us. <3 Thanks for being a beacon of light some of the dark that tried to consume me today.

Y Watts said...

You are very wise. It appears that you learn lessons very well; and articulate them so that they pierce like a shot in the arm-others might say ouch! But know it will only make them better. Keep up the good work.