We were never meant to carry our burdens alone. That’s what it I thought when I watched the two of you to carry that pail of rocks to the shore. You were two little girls, wanting to help carry the weight of someone else’s world for a few hundred steps.
I hope you never forget how heavy those burdens were.
Fear can weigh a person down, girls. So can comparison, unbelief, worry, loneliness, addiction, approval-seeking, and pride.
That bucket was filled with one-hundred rocks, bearing the words of the weary and the broken. They wrote their burdens down on a Saturday night in Nebraska, and I carried them all home in the trunk, with a promise to pray. You said you’d help.
You girls said the words written on the rocks were like demons. That seemed about right to me. And you wanted to listen to that Phillip Phillips song all the way to the little lake north of our house, the song that told us to “pay no mind to the demons.”
We blared the song through the speakers, and we belted it out in our hearts. I saw you girls, in the rear-view mirror, looking out the windows while that song played, while rock-burdens bounced around in a bucket in the back of the Acadia:
Don’t pay no mind to the demons
They fill you with fear
The trouble it might drag you down
If you get lost, you can always be found
Sticks and stones can break your bones, but names really can hurt, too.
Girls, you can outgrow the school playground, but still carry the same old rocks when you’re 32 or 45 or 68 years old. You can, but you don’t have to.
I pray you don’t.
Here’s the truth: Some of the the worst names are the ones we call ourselves. A lot of them start like this: “I’m Not Enough.” How many rocks did we see with those three words scratched onto the surface?
My chin quivered when I listened to you pray over those rocks. Tears rolled, for a thousand ways that women see only what they aren’t. And for all the ways I have felt the same way.
Girls, you have felt it at times, too, on soccer fields and in classrooms. And that’s why you didn’t have to ask me what “not enough” meant.
I pray that your Dad and I never made you feel that way. I’m sorry for the times we might have. We want you to know this one truth, more than your arithmetic or spelling lists — we want you to know that you really are enough, that you have nothing to prove to anyone.
Did you know that some people can go to their graves carrying the weight of regret?
We don’t have to.
Throw the rocks of regret away now, daughters, and keep letting them go if you have to. Toss them far, far away. Keep your hands free. Because you can love better with empty hands.
And believe the truth that you are loved.
Walk with the others. Stop for the ones who are hurting. Don’t run on ahead, now. Help carry a friend’s burden to the place where they can let them go for good, and for God. Cheer them on when they walk away lighter.
Stay close to the cross, girls. That’s where you can always lay a rock down.
I heard the prayers that you said before you threw those rocks into the water. You picked each one up, one by one.
“It’s OK to make mistakes,” you prayed.
Anna, I heard your hearty “High-YA!” I saw how you cupped your hands around your mouth, like a megaphone, to shout out across the waters: “Stay at the bottom of the lake!”
Believe those words for yourself, dear children. I’d like to tell you that you won’t feel the hurts in the bucket someday. But the truth is, you may need to throw a few rocks of you own in a lake from time to time. I’ll go with you, if you want.
And when you do get free of the rocks? That’s when you begin to really live, and to really love.
We emptied a whole bucket of rocks. Then, we walked with our heads held high, all the way back to the car, with the late-afternoon sun warming our arms.
We pulled out of the parking lot, gravel crunching under our tires. I steered the car over top of the dam. That’s when I remembered it–
the stone in my pocket.
It was my stone, the one with the words, “Approval of Others.”
When I found it among the other rocks, I shoved it in my pocket. Thought it would be okay to keep my own rock in my pocket awhile, you know, in case I needed to remind myself from time to time.
But then I knew it: I needed to let it go.
I stopped the car, right at the top of dam, and put the car in park. I walked to the edge of the dam, and threw that rock far, as far as I could.
Truth is, I’ve carried that one rock around for a good long while. It felt good to watch it sail out of my hand like that, and then watch it cut through the glassy surface, until it rippled out, out across the lake. Until it was no more.
And we drove back home, listening to that song called Home.
And we’re gonna make it, girls.
We’re gonna make it home.
A video of the girls praying and getting rid of burdens, tossing pain and regret deep into the water. (Email subscribers can click here to see the video.)
Daughter Lydia is writing about the experience over here, on her blog: