What’s with the stones?

In the outside pocket of my red backpack is a small collection of stones. They aren’t there to make the bag heavier in an attempt to get in some strength training (although that wouldn’t be a terrible idea). I carry them with me as sort of a memorial of the things God has done and is doing in my story.

Back in the early- to mid-1990s when I was learning what anxiety and agoraphobia were and trying to come to grips with how they were devastating my life, I sought help from a Christian counselor. One of the things we worked on was exposure therapy – that is, exposing me to the things that made me the most anxious. That was driving (or riding as a passenger) anywhere outside of my community. The counselor suggested that each time I went further than the time before, I pick up a rock or stone to symbolize the progress. He took this idea from the book of Joshua in the Bible.

In chapters 3 and 4 of Joshua, Joshua is leading the Israelites to the Jordan River and eventually to the land promised to them. When they got to the Jordan, God stopped the river from flowing, allowing all of them to cross over on dry land. One thing that amazes me is the amount of faith it took for them to follow God’s leading and instructions. They had to be willing to take those steps to cross over, trusting that the waters wouldn’t rush over them.

After they finished crossing over, God commanded them to pick up 12 stones from the river and place them as a memorial for generations to remember how God cut off the waters of the Jordan to allow the His people to enter their promised land. This was what inspired the idea my counselor had for me – to pick up stones to make a memorial of the things God was doing as I tried to go places outside of my comfort zone. So whenever I went to a new place, I picked up a rock and wrote the date on it. The problem for me was that even though I had quite a collection of rocks, I wasn’t really getting anywhere. I would go to a place where I began to feel uncomfortable, pick up a rock and then turn around and go home. Next time I would go just one more driveway further, pick up another rock and then go home again. I probably didn’t ever go more than a mile or two at the most. I definitely didn’t have the faith of Joshua and the Israelites!

Eventually the driving and collecting of the rocks fell by the wayside as the fear continued to consume me. Although I would occasionally try to go places and eventually did get to a point where I could travel to a couple nearby towns, I remained, for the most part, stuck. As I’ve shared in other posts and will continue to share more, things began to seriously change in 2022. I became very ill, and through several difficult and miraculous circumstances God began to heal me. Not just my physical illness, but also the years of the emotional and mental distress. Agoraphobia is becoming a part of my history instead of my daily reality.

Not too long ago I was meeting with my therapist and good friend, and I told him about the advice of the counselor all those years ago about picking up the rocks. My friend suggested that I do something similar, but instead of picking up a rock when I visited a new place, he suggested that I leave a rock. That same day I painted a stone that said “God is in this story”. Not too long after that, we took a trip to the St. Louis Zoo and I was able to leave the stone there in the hope that someone might find it and be encouraged. I continue to leave painted stones whenever I go somewhere new or somewhere I have noticed God more significantly in my story. I leave the stones as a memorial of where God is taking me and in the hope they will point others to how God is in their story as well.

Perhaps you have found one of the stones and it led you here. It may seem coincidental but I can assure you it isn’t. I am praying over each stone I leave, that it will be found by the exact person who needs encouragement that God is in their story too. Let me know how God is in your story – let’s encourage each other!

“And Joshua said to them, “Pass on before the ark of the Lord your God into the midst of the Jordan and take up each of you a stone upon his shoulder, according to the number of the tribes of the people of Israel, that this may be a sign among you. When your children ask in time to come, ‘What do those stones mean to you?’ then you shall tell them that the waters of the Jordan were cut off. So these stones shall be to the people of Israel a memorial forever.”

                                                                                                     Joshua 4:5-7

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