Rocks on the Way Down

Delivered on 10/16/17 in Stuart, FL


Growing up, we had a glass box, as big as two clenched fists, filled with little rocks and pebbles, on top of the refrigerator. For most people, friends and guests, it was an interesting decoration choice quickly forgotten. But for the three of us who lived in that house, my mom, my little sister, and I, those rocks meant much more.

Mister Toastmaster, fellow members, and guests. We grew up evangelical Christians. If you also grew up very religious, parts of this story may be familiar. Otherwise it might seem a little strange.

One day my mom told my sister and me that we were all going to climb a hill and pray. We got in the car and my mom drove us to a hill near our church. We didn’t say a single word on the way there. We just listened to the Christian radio, this familiar choruses: “our god is an awesome god he reigns, from heaven above.”

When we stepped out of the car, we looked up and that hill looked so big compared to the kids we were at 7 and 5. Now, we knew that God could hear our prayers from anywhere. But we remembered that Moses climbed a mountain to talk to God, maybe to get just a little close. So just to be sure, we climbed to the top, and we prayed. We prayed for dad to come back.

Earlier that year, January 1st actually, I woke up knowing that something was off. My sister and I waited in the living room for our parents to come out of their bedroom. When they came out, dad had four large suitcases packed full. He told us he was leaving. My sister’s eyes welled up, and she rushed to the door to block it so he couldn’t leave. I just felt numb and I couldn’t stop laughing. I thought it was all a joke.

But there we were, the three of us, up on that hill, crying and asking God to hear us and change dad’s heart. We knew that God could hear us even if we just stood there, praying quietly. But we remembered that Joshua and the Israelites marched and danced around the city of Jericho until God granted them victory. So just to be sure, my family and I we matched, we paced in circles, back and forth, hoping and waiting God would change our lives.

I opened my eyes to see the sun setting and the sky turning purple. I expected to hear God’s voice saying, “My son. I hear you. Believe in this miracle.” Instead, I heard the crickets of the night and the cars in the distance as the city headed back home from work. It was time to go.

On the way down, my mom picked up a small rock and told us to do the same. And we took that rock home as a reminder that God has taken us this far, and that he will take us through to the end.

We knew that God had heard us. But we remembered that Jesus spend 40 days in the desert talking to God. So just to be sure, we would come back to the hill for the next 40 days and climb and pray and cry all over again.

Halfway through these 40 days, I could see my mom getting visibly frustrated and upset, mumbling to herself. With no warning, she took off her wedding ring and threw it out the window. “Yes!” I thought, “That’s the sadness I feel. That’s the rage I have inside of me.”

But she quickly realized that poor people can’t just throw gold rings out the window. So we all got together and went looking for that ring. When she found it in the neighbor’s yard, she put that ring back on. It was a symbol of hope, perseverance, and conviction that God would hear our prayers.

We kept going to that hill to pray. And at the end of 40 days, a miracle happened. That glass contained was full of pebbles and rocks. And my dad didn’t come back. But somehow we had a little more peace, a little more comfort in our hearts, and we knew everything was gonna be okay.

Sometimes when I’m out of town for work and my apartment is empty, my mom comes over and spends some time at my beach condo. And occasionally, when I come back, I’ll find a little cluster of seashells, or a pile of pebbles, sitting on top of my refrigerator. And I’m reminded that that God has taken us this far, and that he will take us through to the end.