Third graders, a hill, a cross, and some…rocks. Yep, it all sounded pretty innocent until I got to the “rocks” part, right? At any other time and in any other place, I, the teacher would have been adamantly against putting those two together. Who, willingly, hands a 9 year old a rock and says, “Throw this down the hill.” Hmm…me, I guess.
It all started a few weeks ago, well, if we go back to the beginning, I’ve been doing this with my 3rd grade classes for 3 years now. Every year we study the book Pilgrim’s Progress. Each year, after we’ve read the book, we go on our own journey. We have a type of cross-country path around our school. It’s pretty strenuous in places–cutting over large hills, through high grass, etc. It’s a great representation of the journey that Christian, the Pilgrim in the story, went on. My class had clues to figure out, team challenges to master, and my favorite part–climbing the hill to the cross to release their burdens (their heavy backpacks), letting them roll down the hill and into the “tomb.”
I love this stop the most, because of how seriously the students take it. Previously, my husband had placed a large wooden cross on top of the hill on the path, and the kids and I gather around the cross. I had them choose a small rock from the path and use their markers to write a fear or a sin they struggle with on their rock. We discuss how the Bible says that Jesus died for these sins and fears and when we give them to him, he will take them from us forever and help us overcome them. We don’t share these with each other. This is just a private time between each child and the Lord. This year, though, it was a little different. As I was talking about the fears and concerns we may have, it hit me. I remembered the worry I had written on my own rock last year. I’d written one word “miscarriage.” I’d silently thrown it into the woods with the rest of my students’ rocks, praying that the Lord would take the hurt and the worry and the fear away, and that He would see fit to bless us with another child one day. As I stood on that hill, surrounded by the little upturned faces of my third graders, I realized the Lord had granted my wish. There I stood, 8 months pregnant, the child I prayed for growing and living within me. Of course I got all choked up and my students looked at me like I was crazy.
After I got myself straightened up, we prayed over our rocks and then one by one we tossed them down the hill and into the woods. For some reason, the new worry I’d just written on my rock seemed insignificant. Again, my faith had been strengthened. God was going to take care of me and all of my worries. We then let our heavy backpacks we’d been carrying roll down the hill, representing Christ lifting our burdens. We talked about salvation and how Christ lifts our burdens of sin.
All in all, it was a wonderful Spiritual journey–one I hoped my little pilgrims would always remember. Little did I know, this journey was about to become even more memorable…and sadly, a lot less spiritual.
About a week after our journey, our principal came to me. She asked me nonchalantly, “I know this is a silly question, but I’m asking each teacher if they know anything about rocks being thrown in the woods by the Warpath (the path we were on).”
I looked at her with wide-eyed, as a cold, clammy feeling started washing over my body–you know the feeling you get when you know you’re completely and utterly “got.” Even though I didn’t know where this was heading, I figured it could not be good. I grimaced, “Well….”
After I told her what I had done, she said, “Well, the farmer who owns the property adjacent to the school uses a path that cuts through the woods to his cow pasture (I’m sure you see where this is headed…). He called the office today and said, ‘Every year in March these rocks just appear. They have strange words written on them; not bad words (praise the Lord!), ‘ he said, just…disturbing words. I’ve never said anything about it for two years, but this year, it happened again!'”
So, you guessed it! For three years, my class and I had been pelting this farmer’s property with mysterious rocks with sins, worries and concerns written on them. The worries we thought were lost in the woods, never to be found again (like Jesus casting our sins in the deep blue sea) were not lost–instead, they were just causing someone else to worry–the poor farmer!
The moral of this story is clear. Never disregard your mother’s warning to you as a child. She was far wiser, than I ever thought–don’t throw rocks.