It wasn’t intentional. This message on my rock. Our retreat leader simply suggested we mark this day with a creative momento - an object we’d keep- signifying a forever memory, etching it into our hearts and minds. “What a lovely idea” I thought. There I sat, rock and paint-pen in hand, thinking “What in the world will I write?”
It had been a hard day, an unexpectedly, painful one too. The hurts, wedged deep within my heart, I hadn’t even known were there. Yet, God did. My marital disappointment welled up, a river within, winding through the rocky places in my heart, making way for the healing balm of God’s loving hand. “So, this is it? My message for today.” Here, I thought I was coming to this retreat to encounter God. I simply wanted to focus on the Lord and spend quality time with him. Yet, he had other plans.
He wanted to focus on me. And an area of sin that was breaking me. Breaking us. Little did I know it. This sin. The sin of unmet expectations. Unresolved hurts. The hardening of hearts. Molding my day like a skillful artisan, God revealed his agenda to me, moment by precious moment. He was going to encounter me. Make known the dark recesses of my soul. My sovereign God was dictating this day as he had all others. Why did I expect anything less?
"Soul Care" said the rock painting station sign. Soul Care was exactly God’s doing all along. His loving conviction taking root in my heart. “Forgive me Lord”, I cried out within. “Forgive me”. The healing balm of the Holy Spirit washing over me. The presence of GOD palpable in the room. Intimacy restored; yet, so much to consider still. So much to mull over. So many lessons to be learned.
I stood there looking at the rocks. So many choices. Black or white? Small or large. Smooth or rough. Deciding on black, I thumbed carefully through the various black rocks. Then, there it was. An imperfect rock, smooth on one side, a chunk missing from the other. Broken I thought. Broken like me. Broken like us. My word. Broken. I would memorialize this day with just one word. Broken. Not exactly the word one wants to keep remembering. Or is it?
Grabbing a golden paint-pen, I sat down and began writing BROKEN on my rock. Then it came to me. The still, small, voice beckoning me, “TO BLESS”. Broken to Bless. My heart welled up with emotion. I imagined all God would do with these broken spaces in my heart. He is the master of making all things new. Isn't he? If only we allow him to.
Would I? Would I allow him to? Make all things new of the hurtful places in my heart, my marriage, my life. Hurts I hadn’t even realized were there. I began to pray to GOD fervently about my heart-hurt and the sin I saw lurking there chafing me and mine. “I want to love better. I want to love submissively. I want to be gentler”. My thoughts went on and on as I was painting BROKEN on this oval shaped, chipped, very black rock. The symbolism of this broken, black rock and my prideful sin ripping at my heart as I painted these words. The darkness of sin amidst the depth of the blackness of this particular rock.
This was not a quick moment. I had not used a paint-pen before and I, initially, could not figure it out. Shaking the pen voraciously, globs of gold paint oozing, unwanted, on the rock. What a mess I was making. A number of times I had to wipe the globs of paint off and start all over again. How often we do this with God. Resist what he is trying to make of us, of ours, of the brokenness within. Having to start all over again in the midst of our messes?
My thoughts darting back and forth from this rock I was painting to the God who was painting me with his wisdom, love and forgiveness. My sin being washed away as the globs of paint washed away on this black rock. I could actually feel his healing balm rushing over me as I poured out my heart and soul to him. My pride hitting me in the face. The hardness of my heart mimicking the hardness of this rock. God revealing the effects of these crevices of sin on me and my marriage and my relationship with him.
And then it happened. I finally figured this paint pen out. Shake, press, write, stop. Shake, press, write, stop. Wasn’t that what God had been doing with me all day. Shake, press, write, stop. He was shaking me out of my denial, gently pressing into the dark recesses of my heart, writing his will upon my soul and then stopping to let it sink in. Patiently leading and guiding me to the truth he desired to reveal to me.
I was overcome with the beauty of his love. I was so awed and humbled by his gentle presence. I could hardly contain my gratitude and joy. Thanking him for revealing the lessons of the day, I continued to write. The word “to” came so easily. Whew. “Dodged more mess” I thought. Mulling over the beauty of humility and how God was calling me to lay down my rights, I knew it would require the work of his hand. “I am willing Lord” I whispered to him.
Etching the letter B on the black rock, I began to write the rest of his message. The word Bless. That word was all that was left. Then it happened. My golden pen ran out of paint. Off to the Soul Care Rock Station I went again, thinking, “I will grab another golden paint pen”. Except, there wasn’t another so I had to choose. I had to choose a different color. For whatever reason, I chose a reddish-pink. Time to finish my rock. The rock I, at first, didn’t want to remind me of my sin and brokenness, I now, excitedly, wanted to finish to remember this special moment with GOD.
Sitting down I begin: L-E-S-S. Then, it hit me. This God-ordained, dual play on words. While I heard clearly Broken to Bless, I was now reading courtesy of the two colors, Broken To B Less. Tears welling up in my eyes, I was undone. Completely undone. Rushes of emotions pouring out of my heart to God. Hope, Sorrow, Pain, Hurt, Regret, Gratitude, Joy. It was then I knew. This rock, it read exactly as God intended it to.
Oh, and the four letters, they didn’t come out as easily as they read above either. Not without some mess. I thought I had this paint pen thing figured out; yet, as I was shaking this reddish-pink paint-pen, I forgot to put the cap on it. Sprinkles of reddish-pink now marring my new lacy, creamy, white blouse. On my right chest and shoulder and somehow my back, were reddish pink dots of various sizes. God wasn’t done with me yet.
Attempting to wash them off my shirt, the blood of Christ coming to mind. The reddish-pink stains, now a metaphor for what his blood has done for me, for my marriage, for my loved ones, for each and every one of us. His blood cleanses, his blood heals, his blood saves. I glance over my shoulder and see the words, “Be Still and Know That I Am God”. Even as I pen these words now, the tears are flowing. Heart water someone once called it. My heart water overflows.
I was overcome. I am overcome. Overcome by a God who loves so much he sent his only son to shed his blood for us. Yet, he doesn’t stop there. As if that weren’t enough, he does so, so, much more. He takes our broken places, our broken spaces, our brokenness and creates something completely, unexpectedly beautiful. Sweet sisters, we are simply clay in our potter’s hand. If only we be still. Being still with God led me to all of this. I had simply shown up. I had simply been still a while.
Yet, this is not often my experience. To simply be still. Sit in his presence. Offering my all to him. How often I resist him, his will, his ways. The dark, black sin winning over my will to love him, my husband, my children, everyone.
My daughter pops up while I’m mid-stream in thought. She’s with me at this retreat. “Hey mom, look which coloring activity I chose” I look and it there it is again, “Be Still and Know That I Am God” Psalm 46:10. I show her my rock. I share a piece of what God is revealing to me. We are both amazed. It's time for lunch and time to share.
As we fellowshipped at lunch, I hesitated to share my rock. I was still absorbing it myself. I simply said, “God revealed some unknown hurts in my heart in desperate need of healing”. Later, I showed our retreat leader my rock. But, not yet. Not then. I was being molded still by the master potter. The retreat had yet to end. With 30 minutes left, she said to us, “Go, ask God what he is inviting you to.