By Marina Rojas
As we entered the church sanctuary, the ushers handed us a small, smooth stone. It felt nice and cool in the palm of my hand as I turned it over and over. I kept looking at it. Its glossy, slick appearance was pleasing to the eye. I began to really like my new rock.
"Hold onto it, until further instructions," was all they said. One of those side-ways, know-it-all grins escaped on my face. Our pastor is the King of sight gags … he loves to use visual aids in teaching us the Word of God. He knows that our generation is inundated with messages from visual media every day, so our minds are used to that kind of stimulation. He knows that for some of us, wanting to know what the prop is all about will keep us awake … I mean, aware of the true meaning of the sermon.
I held onto my rock during praise and worship, clinging to it like a mother with her newborn baby. Hey, I was protecting my rock. There was no way I would be one of those people who had to root around and look for their rock when pastor finally revealed what he wanted us to do with it. Yessiree, I would keep my rock by me night and day. I might even get a "Best Rock Keeper" award for my effort.
Gazing off into the stained glass windows, I imagined Pastor calling me up front to the pulpit, in front of the whole congregation. I would be smiling, he would be smiling, everyone else would be smiling. "Here is the BEST Rock Keeper in the World! Here is the person that has taken THE best care of their rock EVER!"
I would humbly accept the crown and scepter he’d present me, as someone laid a beautiful cape on my back. As I would head back to my seat in the congregation, I would do my princess wave while bobbing my head at my brothers and sisters who could see how adorable my rock and I were. Applause would break out …
Huh? Oh. Pastor’s voice …. back to reality.
"Ok, everyone," Pastor said. "I want you to take the rock I’ve given you and write on the little sticker on the back, ‘MY SINS’. After you do that, begin praying, asking for forgiveness for those sins. When God speaks to your heart, come up front. We have a little pool here that has been set up to look like an ocean pool. God says He hurls our sins onto the ocean floor. So when God speaks to your heart, come up here and hurl your sins, your little rock, onto the ocean floor. Remember you cannot reach anything on the ocean floor, it’s too deep. God wants you to realize that He’s not looking for you to go back to visit those sins, ever."
The congregation fell quiet as prayer began. Soon all that could be heard was the plop, plop, plop of the little rocks symbolizing people’s sins, hitting the water.
I sat looking at my little rock. I had fallen in love with it. It was pretty. I loved its color. I loved how it felt. Its smooth and glossy surface was pleasing to my senses. Then I turned it over and saw the words, "MY SIN."
How many times had I held onto MY SIN and thought of it in the same way that I thought of my rock? I liked MY SIN. Sometimes it was pretty. I loved how it made me feel. It was smooth, and glossed over the truth that it caused me pain and destruction. But somehow, I would nurture it, and love it, and hold tightly to it, protecting it.
Forgive me, God. My heart began to break. Forgive me, Father. I hung my head in shame at the realization that this little rock had become so much more significant than ever my pastor thought it would. Forgive me, Lord, for being so much in love with MY SIN. Renew a right spirit in me, Lord.
I stood up and walked towards the little pool. Silently praying as I looked at the sand, the sea shells, the water, I felt the smooth shiny rock in my hand. For a brief moment, I thought about slipping it back into my pocket, to hold onto it, maybe just to think about it for a while.
But my heart compelled my hand to fling the shiny pebble towards the makeshift ocean floor. The tiny little rock – love of my life – made a big plop into the pool, causing a wide ripple in the still water. Just like my sins cause a big wave in my life, I thought.
Turning back to head to my seat, I watched as the whole congregation came to hurl their sin into the ocean floor. Holding on to my rock had felt good. Letting it go felt even better.
A freelance writer, Marina Rojas lives in Southern California where she loves to share love and laughter with family and friends, and is blessed to have been given the gift of encouragement from our Heavenly Father. Marina can be contacted via the Your Letters page of this Magazine.
LIFE LESSONS FROM 2004:
I learned that I can do all things through Christ who gives me strength – even those things that I never believed possible in a million, billion, trillion years!
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