While hiking side by side with my husband along a trail in Arkansas, the sight of this tree caused me to stop.
Do you see the rock in the middle of the tree? Do you see how the tree has grown around the rock?
I imagine that tree spent many days praying for God to remove that rock. “It’s in my way,” it whined. “I was here first!” It pleaded. “Please tell it to leave so I can grow.”
But God said No. He said, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.”
Taking the Lord’s answer, the tree decided to stop sulking and instead keep growing, despite the rock in its way. And now years later, this is the result: A firmly planted and mature tree with a rock in the center.
I have many rocks in my life – burdens I’ve prayed for God to remove. Financial stress, relational strain, homeschool woes, fears and shameful memories. Some of these He has removed – to the glory and praise of His Great Name!
But others, He has left.
To name one, He has left me to homeschool my children. A burden I feel inadequate to carry. I struggle with this calling, often feeling “different” among my friends, feeling unskilled in teaching math, unorganized in dividing my time, and unable to be and do all that’s required well.
But when I seek the Lord, truly, and stop whining and complaining He showers me with comfort and encouragement. He sends me verses like this:
Lift your eyes and look to the heavens. Who created all these? He who brings out the starry host one by one, and calls them each by name. Because of His great power and mighty strength, not one of them is missing. Why do you say, O Jacob (Julie) my way is hidden from the Lord; my cause is disregarded by my God?
For I am the Lord your God, who takes hold of your right hand and says to you, “Do not fear; I will help you. Do not be afraid, O worm Jacob (Julie) O little Israel, for I myself will help you, declares the Lord, your Redeemer, the Holy One of Israel.”
~Isaiah 40:26-27, 41:13-14
What more do I need?! The Creator of the Heavens, planets, stars, trees, roses, and puppies will help me. Help. Me. God promises to hold my hand and help me!
He helps me grow around those rocks left in my path while also grounding me with deep roots. Now, the very rock I prayed away is what keeps me in close, intimate fellowship with the Lord.
Paul said, “I want to know Christ and the power of His resurrection and the fellowship of His sufferings, becoming like him in his death, and so, somehow, to attain the resurrection from the dead.” Philippians 3:10-11
We know the fellowship of his sufferings as we endure the rocks left in our way. We have a God who has come down to help shoulder the strain of the burdens we are called to grow around.
How does this apply to parenting?
My mom recently shared her testimony using this sculpture she made:
It’s called Burden.
She shared about the burden she carried for years of doing good to earn the approval of others and of God. God showed her that was not a burden He wished for her to carry anymore! He didn’t approve of her because of what she did or didn’t do, but because she was His. That truth was life changing for her.
Then she shared about the burden of single parenthood she still had to carry. It was the hardest, yet most rewarding burden of her life. Now, 37 years later she shared with women of all ages how God has brought many of those burdens full circle.
Being her daughter, I saw her struggle under the weight of her burdens. It’s how I saw Jesus. Even at a young age, I saw my mom as strong and if Jesus was her strength, I wanted to know Him as Savior too.
My mom didn’t hide her burdens from me. Sometimes she didn’t have a choice! As a mom myself, I see how hard that is to do. I don’t want my children to see my burdens, my ugly stuff. I want to hide that and display my strengths and good side instead.
But because I saw my mom wrestle with her burdens, I saw that burdens are a way of life, not something I can avoid by good behavior. I saw that Jesus wanted to use my burdens, not always remove them with a magical prayer.
I met my husband when I was 16 and we married when I was 18. I remember the shocked look on people’s faces when Mom told them Adam and I were getting married. It didn’t make sense to me at all! Why weren’t these people happy for me? I was a big girl and plenty ready for marriage. Our pastor had said so!
But now, with an almost 15-year-old of my own, the shoe is on the other foot! I fully understand the shocked faces! One day I asked my mom, “How did you do it? How did you let us get married so young?”
I’ll never forget her answer. She said, “I just knew that one day God would stop telling me what was best for you and start telling you.”
She understood I had to wrestle under the weight of my own decisions, even the big ones. That has taught me so much as I parent my children, to not carry their burdens for them. God is developing His story in them too.
It’s OK for my kids to struggle and be uncomfortable. It’s OK for them to suffer the consequences of a decision. That’s how they learn! The hardest part of parenting has become not getting in the way of them learning from hardship. I don’t need to lessen the heat when they are being forged! As my bladesmith son Caleb says, otherwise the knife will not hold an edge!
Our kids will have their own rocks they must learn how to grow around. And Jesus, the perfect Daddy often uses that very rock to draw them closer to Him.
But in all this, don’t lose heart. These rock burdens won’t be here forever.
Romans 8:18 says “I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us.”
One day there will be no more rocks. No more suffering. No more cancer. No more divorce. No more cutting words or angry people or selfish motives. And when that day comes, if you were to place all of our rock burdens on a scale, they will be significantly outweighed by the glory of spending eternity with Jesus.
For now, we endure the rocks in our way with the hope of the future glory that awaits those who have called on the name of the Lord to save them.
What is your “rock”?
I pray you will allow the Lord to help you shoulder them.