In the immortal words of a trick-or-treating Charlie Brown…I got a rock.
It wasn’t just any rock, mind you; it was a kindness rock. If you are unfamiliar with the concept, people hand-paint ordinary rocks with inspirational or encouraging messages and leave them in a public place for someone to find.
This particular one was shaped a bit like a heart, painted red, and included the words, “Love you.” I found it on a walk, near the lakeside bench where I like to sit. I immediately recognized what it was, but completely resisted the idea that it could actually be intended for me. After all, the placement seemed strange, hardly a location I’d consider a proper hiding spot.
They probably accidentally dropped it and would soon return looking for it.
Someone else probably needs it more than I do.
I don’t need to hear this message…do I?
Finally, I realized: these are made to be left behind for someone to find, and whoever finds it is who it’s for.
I believe that. Usually, I am the person doing things like this. Whether it’s an Art Drop, where I hide a piece of art in a public location, or when I hide Marty the penguin under someone’s chair at a speaking engagement, I love doing anonymous things. I trust completely that whoever ends up being the recipient is exactly the person it was meant for.
And yet apparently I don’t believe it works the same way when it pertains to me.
Eventually, I did take the rock, examined it, and accepted it as a gift. I sat on the bench and thought about how tired I was from getting our home and business settled since our move in January. Overwhelmed with home improvement projects and business obligations, I was processing a curveball I’d received that morning concerning the renovation of my studio. I was discouraged and exhausted.
As I watched the waves rhythmically roll in and felt them wash away the wall of anxieties that had built up, I smiled. Maybe this rock really was meant for me. Maybe God, through the actions of another person, really wanted me to know He loved me, right at that exact moment.
Is it all a bit much to attach any spiritual meaning to the timing of a random rock being placed in my path by a random stranger on a random day?
I don’t have any proof to offer, that’s for sure. It’s nice to fancy such thoughts of God using his creation to send random love notes to us. But it’s harder when you also take into account the dark times in your life when he didn’t feel present at all. Those times it appeared that he just sat back and allowed terrible things to happen. What then? Was he too busy to notice, too incompetent to help?
Those are hard questions. I believe God loves us and wants us to love one another. I also know that love isn’t love if you’re forced into it. And so the gift of free will takes an awful lot of control out of his hands. By giving us the power to love, we’ve also been given the power to hurt one another deeply.
Thankfully, God can turn pain into plot twists.
Sometimes his response to the bad guy blowing up our bridge is to send a speedboat to catch us and whisk us off to someplace better.
Is it possible that instead of being too busy or too weak, God is attentive and powerful enough to transform our disaster into something triumphant? Maybe this great artist is creative enough to weave seemingly random events — both the heartbreaking and the banal — into a tapestry that is more detailed and delightful than we could ever imagine.
I, for one, have had experiences in which very good things came from very bad circumstances. But this is important: until the exact moment the blessing came into focus — sometimes years later — the situation seemed hopeless and impossible. I was convinced of it. I surveyed the scene of the crime, examined the facts at hand, and it was clear: an open and shut case.
Except that sometimes we don’t have all the facts. Sometimes we interpret them incorrectly. And sometimes a new piece of evidence emerges that recasts all the previous facts in a new light, resulting in a completely different story.
Like the end of a good mystery, it’s gratifying when the pieces of understanding fall into place. The hard part is living in the tension before the puzzle is resolved, wrestling with the Why’s and the How could you’s.
I prefer having the script. I want to see how it ends. I’d like approval rights too, thank you very much. Maybe it takes a few hundred pages for this plot twist to resolve, but as long as it does, I’m fine with it. I’ll even settle for an idea of how it might resolve. Gimme a possibility, no matter how narrow, and I can rest, secure in my faith. But too often, I don’t see any positive outcome or a satisfactory explanation for why terrible things happen to good people.
Alas, this is a limitation of being human and living on the foggy side of eternity. Like a toddler lacking in understanding and impatient for answers, we cry out in frustration, exhaustion, and anger. Life is beautiful, but it is not easy. Sometimes it just wears us out, physically and emotionally.
But I believe that God knows this, and empathizes with us. And I suspect that’s why sometimes, he uses random rocks made by random strangers to remind you that he sees you, he’s with you, and he loves you very much.
Who knows? Maybe he inspired me to write this little post to serve as a similar reminder, to be delivered today, just for you.