What can keep us separated from God?
Jesus was asked once “which is the greatest commandment in the Law?” Jesus replied: “love the Lord your God with all your heart, and all your soul, and all your mind”. The new, biggest TV, the shiniest car, jewelry, fashionable clothes. The latest smart phone. Money. These things tend to distract us from putting God first in our minds and hearts. Rather than focus on how God would have us live while here on Earth, we instead become prisoners to the desire of earthly “things”. Perhaps even to the envy and resentment of those who have things … that we want, for ourselves. Reflect on that for a moment…if we prioritize this material “stuff”, how can we focus on giving? Serving? Worship? Prayer? Those are the tenets of putting nothing first, before God, in your life.
“Stuff” typically consists of material things…earthly goods. However, we can also covet a different kind of “stuff” that gets in the way of a worthy relationship with God – emotional pain. I’ve always been the type to internalize, and often I take personally anything remotely resembling criticism. Perceived slights, things that didn’t go my way, times where I felt I was unfairly treated…I would bury feelings of resentment inside me, and carry them around. I’m also one of those types that, when asked “how’s it going?” I rarely respond “oh, fine.” I actually tell the person asking…how things ARE going. If I really got talking, I might eventually wander into one of the landmine conversation topics that was one of my “rocks.”
What’s a “rock”?
Back about 10 or so years ago, I heard a sermon that really impacted me. The gist of the message was…that some people are prone to carry around these emotional rocks, in a personal “backpack”. When life hands them a bad experience (whether within their control or not), they tend to find one of these rocks, and put it in their backpack, to keep as a souvenir or memento. They would continue to travel down the road of life, carrying this heavy load everywhere with them. Every now and then,
something would cause them to pull a certain rock out, and look at it. Maybe even pull a few rocks out…maybe dump the whole bag out, and “admire” their collection. They would take each “rock” (memory) and turn it this way and that, reliving the experience that created the rock. Then they would set it down and examine the next one…over and over again. Then, the worst part is…they would take all those rocks, and neatly put them in the backpack again, and continue to carry the burden around with them. The point of the message was…what was the purpose of carrying around all those rocks, all that useless weight?
Instead, the way to lighten the emotional load was to take a rock out of the pack, examine it, learn from it…then chuck that rock to the side of the road. The more one started to unload the rocks, the more they felt the relief of the lightened emotional load … and the easier it became to throw away the next rock. Being able to forgive – even when the offender offers no sign of remorse — is powerful. It frees us. Hopefully, it helps us to realize how God loves us, the next time we feel his grace wash over us, wiping away our shame and sin (even when we don’t show true or full remorse).
If you’re carrying around a backpack of emotional “rocks”, take one out. Look it over. Then, instead of putting it back in and carrying it around…try tossing it over to the ditch at the side of the road, and continue your walk, a little closer to Christ.