When our tour guide said, “Trust the rock, NOT the stone,” I had a few clarifying questions.
Since English wasn’t his first language and we were crossing a part of the trail called “Hell’s Abyss”or some other terrifying name, I wanted to be sure I understood. My husband and I were part of a hiking tour group in Iceland that was about to cross a ridge that the guide had already described as “walking along the spine of a book with steep drops on both sides.”
I really needed more information about how to proceed; I have four not-yet-launched children at home. I asked the guy beside me about the difference between rock and stone, but he was Brazilian and wasn’t super helpful.
Finally, I yelled up to the guide, “What’s the difference again between rock and stone?” The guide replied, “Rock is the middle part that is difficult to walk on, but is solid. Stone is the small gravel on either side of the rock that looks safer, but it actually can give way and the pebbles slide off and you fall.”
So, “Trust the boulder, not the pebbles” was a better translation.
I was glad that he warned us, because I definitely would have stepped off the solid (but uneven) boulders and onto the precarious (but safer looking) pebbles.
It’s hard to know, sometimes, which things on our path are trustworthy rocks and which are unstable stones.
As I read about the celebrity suicides last week and reflected on the two suicides in my community in the past six months, I wondered if perhaps some things had given way under their feet. I wondered if they had mistaken some stones for rocks.
Whenever I hear about suicides, I usually say, “They must have been in so much more pain than anyone knew.” I try to say this is in front of my kids because it’s important to me that they show empathy and compassion for these people and their families.
As someone who has struggled with depression for decades, I am sometimes alarmed by how easily I can understand how these broken people would take their own lives. I can imagine how it might all seem too dark, too broken, too tiring to try so hard for even one more day. I don’t have thoughts of suicide, but I also can’t pretend to have no idea how this could happen.
At a Montreat youth conference last summer, the preacher, Aisha taught the kids a call and response prayer to use during worship. She would say, “When it all falls apart,” and they would respond, “Lord, keep me together.”
“When it all falls apart, Lord, keep me together.”
I thought the use of the word “when” instead of “if” was a real gift to the youth gathered that week. The truth is that for most of us, it will all fall apart at some point.
It is in those moments that we can trust in a loving and steady God who is a boulder and not a pebble, a rock and not a stone. For those of us who are currently on solid ground, we can help people who are hurting to see which things are stones and which are rocks. We can be one another’s guides.