Rock Jars


My daughter is a collector, though she doesn’t hold collectibles for long. I suppose you can forgive a two-year-old for that.
Pine cones and rocks and sticks and rocks and rocks are favored treasures to be picked up and carried during our afternoon family walks. She finds them with great joy, but will inevitably forget after we leave them outside the house when our walk is over.
But last week was different.
I let her carry the rocks inside and found an old baby food jar for her to start a collection that she can return to, build, and remember. Then it was Sunday.
Fathers Day Sunday did not have a sermon, but instead had testimonies from current and former Teen Challenge participants. Being set free by God and having the willingness to let go were common themes in the stories of victory over substance abuse and self-harm.
All of the participants found themselves trapped in a cycle of addiction, chasing a temporary fix of validation or an escape from anxiety.
Back home, my daughter wanted to examine her collection, carefully pouring the rocks into her hand, giving them to her mom and me, then depositing them gently back into the jar. Again. And again. And again.
But then she tried something different.
She reached her hand into the little jar to grab a rock, then tried to pull it back out. But her closed fist was too big to pull out of the jar.
I coached her on how to open her hand so she can first take out her hand, then take the rock out of the jar. But with great frustration, she kept grabbing the rock inside the jar, only to make futile attempts to pull her hand, and the rock, back out of the jar.
That’s when I realized that the Teen Challenge participants had finally learned how to take their hand out of the jar, but so many of us with still “normal” lives are stuck.
We are all looking for a rock: peace, fulfillment, joy, validation, love.
And we all have our jars: Drugs, self-harm, sex, TV, phones, work.
Not all jars are bad, but if you try to pull a rock out of the jar, you will only find that you can only have the rock if you stay in the jar. And the longer you stay in the jar, the less you get out of the rock. The more uncomfortable the jar becomes.
Some jars are so painful or uncool—like drugs, gambling, or self-harm—that people will reach a breaking point and seek help.
But other jars are just comfortable or cool enough—busyness, work, Netflix—that people don’t think or can’t admit that they have a problem. That they need to live in a jar to have a rock.
It might help for all of us jar-hands to know that there is good news: we have a Heavenly Father who by his Son can break any jar that is holding us captive, and has an unfathomable abundance of rocks to give us: love, joy, peace, patience, hope, satisfaction, and—best of all—himself.
What are your rocks?
And what are your jars?
Will you let Him set you free and give you good things?