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Not Enough Rocks

Create in me a clean heart, O God, and put a new and right spirit within me. Do not cast me away from your presence, and do not take your holy spirit from me. Restore to me the joy of your salvation, and sustain in me a willing spirit.

Psalm 51:10-12

In a touching scene from the movie Forrest Gump, Jenny returns to live with Forrest for a time as she strives to stabilize her wretched life. After years of drug abuse and wandering in search of something to build a life upon, she returns to her hometown and to the one person who had loved her in a healthy way since childhood – Forrest Gump. Jenny and Forrest walk leisurely together and end up in front of the run-down, deserted house where she grew up with her abusive father. Jenny’s countenance immediately changes to one of intense anger. She begins picking up rocks and throwing them at the house, eventually breaking a window. She falls to the ground in an exhausted and emotional heap, weeping. Forrest sits down beside her and says, “Sometimes, I guess, there just aren’t enough rocks.”

Jenny made many poor decisions in her life. The house of her childhood stood as a reminder of the years of anguish from which she had long tried to escape. She threw the rocks in a fruitless attempt to find peace by harming this physical remnant of her nightmare childhood – perhaps in hopes that it would suffer a portion of the pain she experienced within its walls. Although the house was not the cause of her childhood abuse, it was inseparable from the painful memories.

Similar recollections occur with us today. For example, I cannot drive by my old high school without remembering the violent racial tension that existed during my years there. Decades later, the memory makes me uncomfortable. The building, while having nothing to do with the unrest, stands as a reminder and a transport vehicle back to that difficult time in history. It is natural for us to develop aversions to people and places that are associated with pain from our past. We must remember, however, that the physical objects are separate from our suffering. Our on-going pain from hurts of the past is a spiritual issue that requires spiritual healing. The writer of the 51st Psalm cries for God to create a “clean heart” within, complete with a “new and right spirit.” If we truly desire restoration from pain to joy, we need a loving God, not a whipping boy.

Granted, there are times when we feel the need to strike out in retaliation against our pain, even when the objects were only innocent witnesses. That sort of striking back may actually help in some cases, if only temporarily. Some people feel a need to hold onto their suffering, and God gives us free will to do so. To actually heal our pain, however, requires the intervention of a Savior. Because sometimes, there just aren’t enough rocks.

Come home to church this Sunday. Throw the one true Rock at your pain…

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Never Forget 

This is my body, which is given for you. Do this in remembrance of me.

Luke 22:19 

One tragic moment can turn life around, in ways so painfully new;

But in our sorrow, in a thousand ways, we will remember you…

Excerpt from Never Forget

I work in the air-medical transport community and over the forty-plus years of its existence, our industry has lost more than 300 of its associates in the line of duty. An air-medical accident – most commonly a helicopter crash – usually occurs because of poor decision-making on the part of one or more people. Of course, we all make poor decisions, but some decisions have more severe and irreversible consequences than others. In most public-service endeavors – EMS, fire, law enforcement, military – losing a comrade in the line of duty creates sudden, long-lasting, and violent shock-waves that reverberate far beyond the family and friends of the ones lost.

Remembering is important. Near the end of the last meal with his disciples, Jesus blessed and broke bread, poured wine, and told his closest companions to remember him every time they ate and drank. This request was not made out of a narcissistic fear of being forgotten. Rather, the request was made out of a knowledge that his friends – and us today – would need to remember, not for his sake but for ours. Whenever we form a close bond with another – through marriage, friendship, or profession – we become a part of a family that is larger than our single existence. When we lose a person in that family, we often need to re-member, to reestablish and celebrate that bond, and to have that person in our presence again, if only in our memory.

Some are reluctant to dwell on memories of loved ones because they find it too painful. In reality, it may be more painful not to remember. In his book The Seven Storey Mountain, Thomas Merton writes, “The truth that many people never understand, until it is too late, is that the more you try to avoid suffering, the more you suffer, because smaller and more insignificant things begin to torture you, in proportion to your fear of being hurt.” Cherished memories may hurt by reminding us of what we have lost, but repressing those memories will hurt more.

Keeping the memory of a loved one alive helps our healing process. Indeed, when someone close to us passes, remembering is a primary way to reconnect with them. We cherish items they valued; we return to the scene of the accident; we linger over their pictures. By remembering, we bring a past reality to the present again. While the memory is not as tangible as the reality was, it often allows for a renewing of our focus on today and tomorrow. We remember the sacrifice and the love of others who valued us enough to put their lives on the line for us. We remember our spouse, our friend, our co-worker, our Savior; and the memory of that bond strengthens us today. When we remember, we honor our loved ones and keep their impact upon us alive.

Come home to church this Sunday. Re-member into the family of God.

My song, Never Forget, can be heard at my website, www.ContemplatingGrace.Com.

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