Here’s a thought-provoking story I read in a book called Having a Mary Heart in a Martha World by Joanna Weaver. This is the short version:
A man met God one day and God asked him to take his wagon and haul three rocks to the top of the mountain. The man smiled brightly and willingly took hold of the wagon as he listened to God give detailed instructions.
Along the way, the man met friends that, when they found out what he was doing, asked if he would take their rocks up the mountain, too. Because the man knew serving others was a good thing, he said “Sure.” All along the way this happened again and again. Soon the man’s smile was gone and resentment had taken its place. The wagon had become so heavy all he thought of was giving up and bailing on the whole venture!
God comes to his side and asks what’s wrong. “You gave me a job that is too hard for me,” the man cried. God looked into the wagon. “What is this? And this, and this?” God starts to unload one heavy rock after another until all that is left are the three he originally gave the man. ‘Let others shoulder their own belongings,’ God said gently. ‘I know you were trying to help, but when you are weighted down with all these cares you cannot do what I have asked of you.’ ”
Have you ever found yourself in this man’s position?
You were sure of a calling, a heading, a path to walk, and it was something you knew you and God could accomplish together. And then, before you knew it, your wagon was overloaded and you were overwhelmed.
How did this happen? Did you somehow allow rocks in your wagon that belong to someone else?
In 2016, my elderly dad had a heart attack and found he couldn’t live on his own anymore. My husband and I both felt God asking us to step in to make sure Dad was safe and cared for. These were the rocks God put in our wagon. Then my dad decided he wanted to stay in his own house rather than move elsewhere, even though he couldn’t care for himself or his property. So my husband and I left our home and moved in so that Dad could stay in his home.
Now here we are, thirty months later, and I spend much of my energy feeling my wagon is too heavy, acting resentful of the load and saying to God, “You gave me a job that is too hard for me.”
But did He? Did God ask me to move in with Dad and turn my life upside down? Or did God only ask me to make sure my Dad was safe and cared for? Whose rocks have I been carrying all this time? Mine or my dad’s?
Certainly, there are times when God asks us to reach out and help carry one another’s heavy burdens. These are like boulders, too heavy for one person to shoulder alone. But there are other times when we start out helping and then find ourselves picking up weights or worries God never asked us to shoulder.
A dear friend put it like this: “God may have asked you to reach out to help but did He ask you to dislocate your arm in the process?”
Now I admit, that as I write these lines, I fear I may sound like a selfish person buying into the “Me first!” mindset that the world loves to tout. I really hope not! I am still figuring this out as I go, trying to discern what God is asking of me and what I have taken on because of my codependent tendencies. Honestly, sometimes I am still unable to tell the difference.
Either way, I think that if a person is hauling a heavy wagon and feeling like God has overburdened them, it bears looking into. Perhaps it comes down to the perpetual ponder of the co-dependent: “What is mine, Lord, and what is theirs? What do you ask me to carry and what can I hand back?”
I have found that a pivotal part of this introspection is prayer: A quiet heart asking God for clarity. Being still helps me better hear God’s whispered wisdom, and I surely trust God’s perspective more than my own! If you recall from the story, it was God who looked in the wagon and separated out the man’s rocks from those that belonged to others. We can trust Him to do that with our rocks too.
In addition, I can ask myself these questions when I suspect I am hauling rocks that aren’t mine. If you find yourself in a similar place, try these on for size:
- Is my load draining and debilitating me to the point of having
- Are other areas of my life being badly neglected or damaged?
- Is there another way I can help that makes others stronger instead of enabling dependence?
I think we can agree that taking up an arm full of rocks at God’s request can be worth the struggle, bringing glory to God and joy to our hearts. Just be sure the rocks you carry are yours so that the joy of the mountaintop can be yours, too.