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The Stones We Carry

Every writer has stones, treasures gathered along the path of life. They weigh us down and require our attention, time, and daily sacrifice.

Every creative person has them, in fact, which is to say everyone.

We know from birth what treasure stones are. smooth stonesMy easy-going Ellie and my take-charge Charlotte have collected stones since they could walk.

As a writer, I’m a child again searching for some long-buried thing, a trinket of neglected memory to turn over in my hands a few times before setting down for someone else to find.

Every day brings the question fresh again:

What will you do with yours?

If your house is anything like typical, you know who that first someone usually is.

By Friday evening, my treasures have piled up. Alone in my office all week, as often happens, I buzz with the urgency to share. I seek out my patient wife to sort through my all my finds, hoping she’ll see the hidden beauty in them. My greatest joy is still incomplete until she’s seen them.

It doesn’t matter what it is—it’s Aladdin’s lamp to me and I’m not looking to lay it down yet. While I don’t exactly expect her to join in my jig, I still want her to appreciate it. For my benefit.

As I said, I’m a child.

That she married me should prove her lack of discernment. Yet this is how it’s always been. Maybe it seemed romantic to her in the beginning. But every week, new culminations of my irrepressible love of obscure beauties come to her, and she’s ceremoniously dumped upon for this work she’s supported me doing for so long.

Sheri on walking path Silent she bears the burden. My week’s searching has already pressed upon her, weighing her to the couch. Oppressive needs and demands have built up, the sacrifices that prevented her free wandering as I do. This rubble has already become a sizable pile around her.

And world-weary, she’s brought more to sort.

The kids in bed for the night, my chance to search my pockets has finally come. I flip closed the magic mirror to see someone other than my own face reflecting back for a while.

In the warm glow of the new Christmas tree, she knits with sticks and string, a gift she’s preparing. One of many. Every day this week she’s pulled kids to and from school, to practice, friends’ houses, made meals, cleaned up, and generally done everything that needed doing. From morning to night.

The sun doesn’t give me the hours she does.

Am I thinking of any of this?

Gleaming handfuls, I stack them up, growing blind in the whirl of energy and seeing all I’ve gathered.

Oh, she’s going to see it all, I think, and she’ll tell me what really great treasure it is. This is so great. It’s even sounding better than I hoped…what a great post this will make!

Children, are you as ungrateful as I am for a spouse who always tells the truth?

“I don’t get it.” Her knitting hands drop to her lap. Drawing back, I stop stacking.

I blink in the light of the sparkling Christmas tree, suddenly harsh and glaring. Her expression is unmistakable: this is not treasure to her.

Did I force it on her again? Yes, of course I have. I was only doing what I wanted to do.

But there’s something more. Something she’s hurting to say—a stone of her own she can’t ignore.

“I’m not a wordsmith.” It chokes her. “I’ll never be.”

Tears spring to her eyes and I’m confused. This is the last thing I ever wanted.

“I…know that,” I say, disoriented. My prized discoveries suddenly look more like garish proof of a familiar obsession. “I don’t want a wordsmith.”

Among other things, all week she has been cook, accountant, banker, home manager, and cabbie. appreciative audience. I could heap up bucketfuls of bounty, but if I don’t see what they cost, what her gift to me of uninterrupted searching demands, what does that say about what I treasure?

When should her unburdening have become my goal?

Her honesty stills me, holds my gaze. And it’s painfully obvious it isn’t mygrace that stops me and completely changes what I want. “I can’t be in your world.” There’s such a gap between us here and my thoughtless agenda has only widened it. colorful yarn ball

And she’s the one feeling broken? This beautiful, peaceful person, wonder of God’s own making, the one I’d drop all my projects to help, I’ve had my hands too full of rocks and missed the purest diamond.

“I just want you,” I say. “It’s like I forget we’re two different people. But I’m so glad for it.”

Can I skip merrily into the storied woods blindfolded and not miss this? When will the arrogant teenager let the recovery of his inner child be tempered by the mature man’s faith?

The search, the sharing, the work, it isn’t wrong. But by God’s mercy, I gather myself before I say any more and begin to listen. I remind myself to ask questions. And the stones begin to come off…

This job of returning to childhood, of finding the stones as treasures redeemed and beautiful, it’s hard, especially when you can do nothing to help you re-member yourself by its practice, its process. And all the while, the people around you remain crushed under the weight of so much pain. It can suffocate, the overwhelming yearning just to see it all fixed, once and for all, but so can the costs your freedom brings.

And the truth is, we can’t even manage our own bucketful, let alone someone else’s.

I need my sweet wife—and no less when I forget I can’t do a single thing for anyone. All I can do is come with no demand, no agenda and let myself remember to be with someone, slowly and passively.

And this can be an active love.

It’s not my grace that’s taught me this. It’s in her passivity—the very quality she doesn’t yet appreciate in herself—I’ve seen the automatic work of redemption proceed unhindered.

Am I willing to listen and to see her treasure?

Maybe writers are best knowing they can’t do anything. Because maybe for us to share anything, we need to remember God has to do everything. If we try and say anything ourselves, maybe we aren’t being merely the recipients of the very love we need.

We can’t bring anything but our stones. So maybe we don’t decide when they get shared or treasured.

Maybe sometimes our real job is being children just mature enough to let someone see their stones as treasure.

The lightness of a child is difficult for all. But the real treasure is in their eyes that see all stones as they really are: as treasure beyond any measure.

Don’t hurry today. Don’t rush. Love with “urgency and not with haste.” And let someone get unburdened this week. You won’t miss a thing.

All your stones have a place…. Carry them and let others follow with theirs.


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