YOU HAVE one. A sack. A burlap sack. Probably aren’t aware of it, may not have been told about it. Could be you don’t remember it. But it was given to you. A sack. An itchy, scratchy burlap sack. You needed the sack so you could carry the stones. Rocks, boulders, pebbles. All sizes. All shapes. All unwanted. You didn’t request them. You didn’t seek them. But you were given them. Don’t remember?
Some were rocks of rejection. You were given one the time you didn’t pass the tryout. It wasn’t for lack of effort. Heaven only knows how much you practiced. You thought you were good enough for the team. But the coach didn’t. The instructor didn’t. You thought you were good enough, but they said you weren’t.
They and how many others?
You don’t have to live long before you get a collection of stones. Make a poor grade. Make a bad choice. Make a mess. Get called a few names. Get mocked. Get abused.
And the stones don’t stop with adolescence. I sent a letter this week to an unemployed man who’s been rejected in more than fifty interviews.
And so the sack gets heavy. Heavy with stones. Stones of rejection. Stones we don’t deserve.
Look into the burlap sack and you see that not all the stones are from rejections. There is a second type of stone. The stone of regret.
Regret for the time you lost your temper.
Regret for the day you lost control.
Regret for the moment you lost your pride.
Regret for the years you lost your priorities.
And even regret for the hour you lost your innocence.
One stone after another, one guilty stone after another.
With time the sack gets heavy. We get tired. How can you have dreams for the future when all your energy is required to shoulder the past?
No wonder some people look miserable. The sack slows the step. The sack chafes. Helps explain the irritation on so many faces, the sag in so many steps, the drag in so many shoulders, and most of all, the desperation in so many acts. You’re consumed with doing whatever it takes to get some rest.
So you take the sack to the office. You resolve to work so hard you’ll forget about the sack. You arrive early and stay late. People are impressed. But when it’s time to go home, there is the sack—waiting to be carried out.
You carry the stones into happy hour. With a name like that, it must bring relief. So you set the sack on the floor, sit on the stool, and drink a few. The music gets loud and your head gets light. But then it’s time to go and you look down and there is the sack.
You drag it into therapy. You sit on the couch with the sack at your feet and spill all your stones on the floor and name them one by one. The therapist listens. She empathizes. Some helpful counsel is given. But when the time is up, you’re obliged to gather the rocks and take them with you.
You get so desperate you try a weekend rendezvous. A little excitement. A risky embrace. A night of stolen passion. And for a moment the load is lighter. But then the weekend passes. Sunday’s sun sets and awaiting you on Monday’s doorstep is—you got it—your sack of regrets and rejections.
Some even take the sack to church. Perhaps religion will help, we reason. But instead of removing a few stones, some well-meaning but misguided preacher may add to the load. God’s messengers sometimes give more hurt than help. And you might leave the church with a few new rocks in your sack.
The result? A person slugging his way through life, weighed down by the past. I don’t know if you’ve noticed, but it’s hard to be thought¬ful when you’re carrying a burlap sack. It’s hard to be affirming when you are affirmation-starved. It’s hard to be forgiving when you feel guilty.
Paul had an interesting observation about the way we treat people. He said it about marriage, but the principle applies in any relationship. “The man who loves his wife loves himself” (Eph. 5:28). There is a correlation between the way you feel about yourself and the way you feel about others. If you are at peace with yourself—if you like yourself—you will get along with others.
The converse is also true. If you don’t like yourself, if you are ashamed, embarrassed, or angry, other people are going to know it. The tragic part of the burlap-sack story is we tend to throw our stones at those we love.
Unless the cycle is interrupted. Which takes us to the question, “How does a person get relief?”
Which, in turn, takes us to one of the kindest verses in the Bible, “Come to me, all of you who are tired and have heavy loads, and I will give you rest. Accept my teachings and learn from me, because I am gentle and humble in spirit, and you will find rest for your lives. The teaching I ask you to accept is easy; the load I give you to carry is light” (Matt. 11:28—30).
You knew I was going to say that. I can see you holding this book and shaking your head. “I’ve tried that. I’ve read the Bible, I’ve sat on the pew—but I’ve never received relief.” If that is the case, could I ask a delicate but deliberate question? Could it be that you went to religion and didn’t go to God? Could it be that you went to a church, but never saw Christ?
“Come to me,” the verse reads.
It’s easy to go to the wrong place. I did yesterday. I was in Portland, Maine, catching a flight to Boston. Went to the desk, checked my bag, got my ticket, and went to the gate. I went past security, took my seat, and waited for the flight to be called. I waited and waited and waited—finally, I went up to the desk to ask the attendant and she looked at me and said, “You’re at the wrong gate.”
Now, what if I’d pouted and sighed, “Well, there must not be a flight to Boston. Looks like I’m stuck.”
You would have said to me, “You’re not stuck. You’re just at the wrong gate. Go down to the right gate and try again.”
It’s not that you haven’t tried—you’ve tried for years to deal with your past. Alcohol. Affairs. Workaholism. Religion.
Jesus says He is the solution for weariness of soul.
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