STONES - By Margot Cioccio
Written for a service at the Gathering House Church in Spokane WA.
Rich Mullins writes in his song Hold Me Jesus “I’d rather fight you for something I don’t really want than take what you give that I need. I beat my head against so many walls I’m falling down, I’m falling on my knees.”
Last week before the service I shared with a close friend what I would be sharing in these readings. The topic of dreams is upbeat and positive right? Not if you've had a dream that died. My friend and I both have suffered numerous deep disappointments and set backs on this journey to follow God.
In both our cases it was certainly not for lack of trying or for lack of faith.
King David wanted to build a temple for the Lord. He collected vast amounts of supplies and devised wonderful plans, and God said no - sorry your hands are too bloody. I’ll let your son build it. God does say no sometimes to our dreams and he doesn’t always explain why.
I sat at one of these tables last week and my friend and I both got all teary at the thought of having to discuss the subject of dreams. Maybe you too have dreams that you need to grieve and release to the Lord. Today my reading is called Stones. We can do a lot of things with stones. In the bible young David used three smooth stones to slay the giant goliath. I think it was more his faith in God than in the three tiny stones. David had learned some things while tending his fathers sheep all alone in the wilderness. He faced some mighty trials out there with only God to turn to. Loneliness, lost sheep, lions and bears. You might look at all those things and think ‘thats not the blessing of God…. but what if all those hardships are what prepared him to be the best of Israel’s kings. Laura Story put it well in her song called Blessings. “'Cause what if Your blessings come through raindrops, What if Your healing comes through tears? And what if a thousand sleepless nights Are what it takes to know You're near? What if my greatest disappointments Or the aching of this life Is the revealing of a greater thirst This world can't satisfy? And what if trials of this life The rain, the storms, the hardest nights Are Your mercies in disguise?
When I was a very young woman, I had come from a broken home. You many think my dream small and perhaps it was. I simply wanted to get through college and marry my high school sweet heart and have a family of my own that wasn't broken. I was young but I was sure he was the one. We went off to the same college. The first year was ok - we would be fine then we would break up, then get back together only to do it all over again. I always had hope that we would eventually grow up and make it work, College year 3 he moved with his family to another state. He met someone, she got pregnant and he did the right thing and married her. I locked that dream of a life together away with the part of my heart that contained it and just moved on.
I buried it so deep that, many years later when I realized I didn’t have any dreams of my own I couldn't hardly remember it. I kept having visions of an old chest that was wrapped with chains. It would rattle and shake. I was terrified of what might be in it. If I ever got brave enough to open it. It was about that same time that that young man and his mother both independently found me on face book. That chest rattled and shook even louder. It’s a long story but God was able to work some long over due healing in all of our hearts. I am thankful for that healing.
In my devotional blog that now has nearly 600 post I found one I had written called the secret place. I want to share a bit of it with you. “I have always thought of the Secret Place as being some place wonderful, hidden in the Lord like a secret garden. Today I had a whole new perspective on where the secret place is. I was asked recently about my hopes and dreams - I was unable to give an answer and that has bothered me for the last several days. So I have been pondering. Why don't I have an answer and why does the question bother me?
I realized today as I was praying and pondering that there was a place in my heart that I have kept locked up and hidden. A place of secret dreams that I had chosen to let die because I came to realize that I could not have them and have my relationship with the Lord. My relationship with the Lord won out. Yet it was a great dream to let go of on my part and it was tangled up into much of my hopes and other dreams. So I locked them all away. Today I realized that that hidden place in my own heart is the "Secret Place” where the Lord longs to meet me in a deep way. So today I allowed the Lord into that secret place. He walked around the place with me without any condemnation. He allowed me to grieve the loss and helped me to bury it in him.
I tell you the truth, unless a kernel of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains only a single seed. But if it dies, it produces many seeds.
It really doesn't matter how big or little your dream may have been. When I wrote the post called the Secret place I was not able to talk openly about what had happened. I shared some of it with Rob and our Intern at the time on a long drive home from a conference. Rob was right at the time to tell me to look how God had protected me.
There is only so much of a tale that can be told in a reading like this. I had buried and locked away my heart and never allowed myself to feel the pain or grieve the losses. I chose to go on with life and just not feel things as deeply as I had once been able to feel. I was never going to hurt like that again. That day in the secret place with the Lord I began to allow myself to feel those very old losses. They hurt just as much even after years of being locked away. Some pain is good - we need to feel it to heal and to begin to feel more than just numb again.
More recently I sat one day by the Spokane river. I would pick up a stone and I would allow myself to feel my frustration, hurt, grief, pain and disappointment. I put it in that particular stone. When I got ready to let it go and be done with it. I would hurl the stone out into the water where I could never get it back. It took a number of stones to work through the dream of being full time ministry on staff at a church. Letting go of that dream that I had pursued for many years in many places is another story but it led me discover a new dream. I'd like to tell you these decisions to lay down something familiar to be able to follow the Lord into something new and unknown, is easy. But as Rob will tell you being a Christian isn’t for cowards - moving on with the Lord means allowing him to deal with our broken stuff.
There are stones back in the prayer loft and a big basin of water. I invite you to choose a stone and place upon it your sorrow, or broken dream, your grief or that thing you know you need to let go of. When you are ready cast it into the basin as an act of letting it go. It is a step on the journey to discovering a new dream, we must first let go of the old broken ones.
I’m so sorry this will be hard for some of you. I can tell you it is worth it. If this is not hard for you today will you pray and support those who are having to release things to the Lord.
The journals and feathers are back there again this week. If you want to share about your big dream, or the lack of one, or what you are releasing to the Lord. I invite you to be real and honest before the Lord and if you can with each other.
If you are reading this on-line you can take any stone use it in a similar way casting it into a near by body of water or a bucket of water in your home when you are ready to release it. You are welcome to share your big dream, or about a lost dream or your thoughts on this post in the comments.