It’s New Year’s Eve and I’m remembering that day in September when I stood with the others on the shore of Iona Sound. All forty-one of us from the Abbey were invited to take a pilgrimage to all the important sites on the island. That portion of the beach was where St. Columba and his followers landed their boats in 563, bringing Christianity from Ireland to Scotland. The sand was covered with rocks, all rounded and smooth, the most I’d ever seen. We were asked to pick one, to symbolize something that was burdening us, and throw it into the sound in an act of leaving it behind. Without the weight of that rock, we could move forward to be all we were created to be.
I chose a large black one, holding it in my hands and feeling the heft of it. Standing in the sun, I thought about what burdened me. Soon the answer came. Much of my energy was spent trying to protect myself– from embarrassment, from making mistakes, from being less than perfect. It was hard to freely move as God’s spirit led when I was having to keep up my defenses.
What if I let that go and just live in the moment, trusting that God will make up for my inadequacies?
I stayed with that question and walked on the rocks, holding the one in my hand, considering how fear had been at the base of my defensiveness. I was tired of holding the rock, and I was tired of holding on to my need to defend myself. It was time to let go.
Standing at the shore, I threw the rock into the water, waiting to hear the “thunk” when it hit the surface, a reminder of the weight that I’d let go of. Others from our group were doing the same, quietly walking out to their own meditative spot and dropping their rocks on that Scottish shore.
We gradually returned to the trail and continued on with our pilgrimage. I wondered if I’d be able to leave that burden back in the sound.
I kept that thought with me as the week progressed. The next night at dinner, staff from the Iona headquarters in Glasgow joined us, including one who was a videographer. They had come to get footage of participants sharing what it was like to live in the Abbey community. The two men and woman happened to sit at the table I hosted as part of my evening meal duty.
As we were clearing plates, the woman, who’d sat next to me asked, “Would you mind being interviewed?”
“Right now?” I asked, remembering I hadn’t had time to brush my hair or freshen up before dinner.
“Yes. We’ll go out by the cloisters,” she said.
Let it go, Connie, that still small voice of God seemed to be saying. Just be yourself. Don’t worry about how you look or how you sound. The sound part was the ongoing self-consciousness I had when people made comments about my Southern accent. While most were good-humored, they still made me uncomfortable at times. This would be my first test of letting the rock sink in the sound.
I found myself relaxing as the interviewer helped me stand at the best angle for the camera and told me the questions he’d ask. It felt good to be part of their project and to express my gratitude for how that week had enriched my life.
There would be many more tests since that September day. It occurs to me that I needed to leave that burden behind so that I can move forward into 2018. Now I’m free to be fully engaged in whatever God puts in my path in the new year.
What about you?
What burden do you need to leave behind before you step into 2018?
How would that impact your journey?