Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Sometimes There Just Aren't Enough Rocks

The beautiful weather this past weekend took me outdoors to clean about the carport, and I found a handful of rocks I'd brought back from Scotland. When I travel I pick up small rocks as momento's. It's strange, I know, but it's cheaper than the souvenier junk. One of the rocks, the one in the center of the photo, shaped somewhat like an egg, I picked up on the north coast of Scotland at Burghead.

One evening, sitting alone and looking out over the North Sea, I saw that rock at my feet and it took me back to an experience from twenty years ago. At that time I was on my first UMVIM trip which was to the Dominican Republic. The work, laying blocks to build a church, was hard and meaningful, and the bay town of Barahona was beautiful. One evening, driving back from visiting a mission medical clinic, we stopped to see a beach that was covered with rounded, smooth rocks rather than sand.

We simply walked the beach, enjoyed the view and picked up some of the well-worn rocks. I picked up one that looked just like an egg - perfect egg shape and a little off white in color. I started to keep it, but then tossed it down preferring to find those with unusual colors and shape.

Here's the embarassing part. When we got back on the van to return to our motel, one of the guys excitedly showed us his great find - a rock that looked just like an egg! It was the same rock I'd tossed away. I didn't say anything, but I remember to this day the strong feeling of jealousy that swept over me. I had a handful of rocks just like I'd looked for, but they paled in value as I admonished myself for not keeping the suddenly admired egg-rock.

I know, it was a childish response. And as I said, it's still embarassing to think about it. But as those memories rose up and stared back at me in my solitude at Burghead, I wondered if I'd really grown up much since then. Have I allowed the Spirit to root out such envy in my heart, or do I just do a better job of disguising it, or refusing to acknowledge it?

I'd be too ashamed to admit this, except I do believe others have to deal with the same kind of emotions. In the Methodist Connection it shows up every spring. We might be happy in our appointment and have no desire or intention to move to a new church. But then we hear about the moves of others and so we say to ourselves (and yes, sometimes to others) "I should have been the one to go there." But really it could be just another pretty egg-shaped rock.

Envy shows up when we feel passed by with career opportunities. Or when we hear of friends receiving accolades for doing something we chose not to do. It creeps in when we compare our material possessions with what others have. It's funny how that when others value something, that increases its value to us. How many things have we bought, or worked to acquire, not because we really desired them, but just because others said they were desirable. You know, things like designer-label rocks, big screen rocks, iPhone rocks, exclusive membership rocks - the list could go on and on.

Now it is true that feelings are simply feelings, and that it's our behavior based-on-0ur-feelings that is open for judgment. But I'm not talking character development here, rather, the transformation of the heart, something Wesley called sanctifying grace. I need, we need, a principle within to awaken us to a sensibility of envy, a pain to feel it near.

In my case, rocks will have to do. The title of this post is one of my favorite lines from the movie Forest Gump. Forest and Jenny, "his girl," walk up to an abandoned house in a field where she survived a terrible childhood. Jenny runs up and angrily starts throwing rocks at the house, until she collapses into a crying heap on the dirt road. Forest tried to comfort her and in his narrative voice-over says, "Sometimes there just aren't enough rocks."

I kept the rock from Burghead as a token reminder, not only of my reflections that day, but also of the grace there that allowed me to examine my thoughts and feelings and turn them over to God. But I wonder, are there enough rocks to change my wayward soul?


Anonymous said...

Are you the one who started the pet rock fad?

Did you write the line for Charlie Brown, "all I got was a rock."

Of course, I say that as I look at my collection of Rocks from Asbury Hills and California, and here at the nearly empty Lake Wylie.

Its not weird if someone else does it, just eccentric. :)


Lauren said...

This blog rocks!