Wednesday, March 4, 2020

Prayer Cairn Revisited

Today was a beautiful day in Caldwell (60 degrees and sunny...sorry, Rochesterians!) so I decided to take a break from sermon writing and take care of a project I've been meaning to do for a while: neatening up the church's prayer cairn.

During Lent last year, Boone Memorial Presbyterian Church talked about the idea of rocks and stones in the Bible, and as an ongoing project, we constructed a stone cairn representing our prayers (read more about it here). I did wind up creating a permanent version of our cairn outside of the sanctuary, and have encouraged folks to continue to take or leave stones as symbols of prayers throughout the year.

Over the past year, the activity around the cairn seems to have slowed down quite a bit (which isn't surprising). We don't get a lot of snow in the valley, so it was never covered up, but the "pile" slowly flattened out somewhat and became covered with dead leaves and branches. I wasn't sure if this Lenten project mattered much to anyone else anymore besides me, but I wanted to clean it up a bit as spring begins making its way back to Idaho.

All I wanted to do was move the rocks to the side so that I could brush away the leaves with my hands and leave a nice, neat space. I didn't think there were more than a handful of rocks (I should have taken a "before" picture to adequately show what it looked like, but I didn't think of it until afterwards). It looked disheveled, forgotten, abandoned.

The empty cairn, ready to be cleared and rebuilt
But as I began moving the rocks to the side, diligently searching and carefully unearthing the partially-buried ones, I discovered that there were a LOT more rock-prayers than I had initially thought. There were tiny ones that had rolled away from the pile. There were medium ones that had been covered by leaves and dirt. There were big ones that for whatever reason weren't immediately apparent to me. Every time I thought I was almost done moving the stones, I found more. And then, once I finally shepherded up all of the stones and cleared away the ground, I rebuilt the cairn. And it was just as big as it had ever been.

Not only that, but there were new stones there. I know, because I remember the ones that had been painted last year. Today, there were newly painted ones that I didn't recognize, and odds are that there were new, unpainted ones, too--I just couldn't identify them as easily.

Thinking about how these stones represent the prayers of our community (both inside and outside of the church doors), this experience took my breath away. How many times do we feel like our prayers aren't worth lifting up? How often do we feel like if we were to put it out there, our hopes, dreams, fears, and anxieties would just wind up brushed aside, or trampled underfoot, or otherwise unnoticed. How often do we feel like we're alone in our prayers? Like we must be the only one feeling this way, the only one hurting this much, the only one doubting or wondering or worrying?

But even when WE forget about our prayers--when we pray, but then the business of life sweeps us away to occupy ourselves with other things--when our prayers lie forgotten in the chapel, or the garden, or our hearts, God remembers. God seeks them out and brushes them off, holding each one close and surrounding the pray-er with grace and love.

Then, God takes all of our prayers and puts them together so that they might hold each other up and remind us that we're not alone. God reminds us that prayers are for sharing, not for keeping to ourselves. Our burdens may be heavy and we may be weary, but there's NO weight that can't be borne when we allow our God and our community to help us carry it. Even when we fall away from God or community, even when our stones roll off of the cairn, it's never too late to rebuild and lean on the prayers and love of others. There's still plenty of room for it. It just takes a little bit of care.

This project didn't take long--no more than 10 minutes. But as I kept uncovering more and more seemingly-forgotten prayers, I held each one for a moment and loved the person who had left it there. Your prayers haven't been forgotten. YOU haven't been forgotten. As long as God is God and there are people who seek to follow Jesus, you will be heard and beloved.

No comments:

Post a Comment