It began with a boy. Things usually do, I suppose. He was five years old when he picked a rock out of the gravel and placed it in my hand. Kissing my cheek, he said, “It’s a heart.” And off he scurried, brown eyes mixing in with the darkness of the night. The summer of 2010 forever remains in my memory as one of the heart—a pruning of mine and a realization of His.
A heart. The cliché symbol of love. They would appear to me as I walked through creek beds and wooded paths—during night hikes up to the staff cabin to shower or change. In fields. By the lake. Heart shaped rocks would appear, and the children began bringing them to me one by one. It became a sort of game for the other counselors—an excellent way to keep their children focused. And so my backpack began to fill with rocks shaped like things only closely related to a heart. But I kept them just the same—even the small little pieces of gravel picked up underneath the tent. I would keep them because they were a gift. But they weren’t just a gift from those sweet little faces and fingers. That summer, Gungor’s song Beautiful Things hit it big—and somehow, sensing the power in the lyrics, our elementary school children would hunt crawdads while belting out, “You make beautiful things out of dust. You make beautiful things out of us.” And so, each day was a reminder of God’s heart and mine. The entwining of the two, a hard and beautiful process.
They just began to be something that I looked for—rocks shaped like hearts. And soon friends began mailing them from California and Michigan—giving them to me in Scotland and having little African children search for them on mission trips. And each time I’d get a thrill at the fact that they were perfectly formed into the shape of a heart—and that God had taken the time to deliver them just to me.
It was only natural that I search for God’s symbol in India. There—where my heart was pushed and stretched and broken. It became a mosaic of grace and forgiveness as I allowed Him to reconstruct the shattered pieces. None of them believed me when I told them that God gave me heart shaped rocks as gifts. Rocks are rocks, right? Each day I’d walk with my face to the ground—searching. Hoping. Looking. I knew He had a gift for me, but was impatient to receive it. Often, I’d dig around along the edge of the dark sandy beach, slowly wasting away from Monsoon season. I’d dig and poke and wonder why no heart seemed to appear.
And then, on the day of my departure, strolling alongside my teammate, a whisper came into my ear. “Go over there.” And there, in a washed up pile of sticks and debris, was a perfectly smooth, gray stone in the shape of a heart.
I sat thinking about this particular occurrence this afternoon while driving home from work. There are so many things I look for and pray for and long for. I keep my head down in the sand looking for them and wondering why God does not make them appear. So often, we as humans see God’s provision and love manifested in fulfilled desires. So, we seek the representation of God’s love instead of He himself. In the same way, I sought the reminder of his heart instead of His actual heart.
I’ve just been mulling these actualities around in my brain this evening—how I can desperately feel like I deserve something from the Lord—that there must be some gift or reminder of his love that he is somehow withholding.
If God loved me he would give me this. Or that. Or send me him or her. And if he really loved me he would give me these things now instead of allowing me to struggle. He wouldn’t allow me to feel lonely and broken and rejected and left behind.
These are thoughts that, if we were all honest with ourselves, have crossed through our minds at one time or another. For me, it is learning to get my head out of the sand and remember that God’s gifts will undoubtedly wash upon the shore when I least expect it. His gifts are good and his love is never ending. He has never failed me, so I have no reason to believe that he would withhold anything good from me.
Sometimes, I believe that E.E. Cumming’s poem, I Carry Your Heart With Me, was actually written by God for me.
“i carry your heart with me(i carry it in
my heart)i am never without it(anywhere
i go you go,my dear;
here is the deepest secret nobody knows
(here is the root of the root and the bud of the bud
and the sky of the sky of a tree called life;which grows
higher than soul can hope or mind can hide)
and this is the wonder that’s keeping the stars apart.
i carry your heart(i carry it in my heart)
And this is the wonder that’s keeping the stars apart. He carries my heart.