An Unnecessary Burden

Actual man with burden I met on my walk in Mexico. Because of the handy availability of the phone camera I could take his picture.

I recently met a man carrying a sack of something tossed over his shoulders on a rustic road in Mexico that we both were traveling. I had just prayed for a fresh idea for my weekly spiritual essay. After passing the man with the shouldered bag a story started to unfold in my mind, a “faith fable” I decided to call it. Here it is, not a true story, but a story with a truth.

Once upon a time a farmer was resting from his field work, eating his lunch. The field happened to be alongside a road upon which a traveler was approaching, hefting a heavy bag slung over his shoulders, stooping him forward under the weight as he walked.

The traveler paused by the lunching farmer and tossed down the bag with a sigh of relief. “May I rest a spell here?” he asked the farmer.

“Certainly,” replied the farmer. “Where are you going, and if I may be so bold as to ask, what is in the bag that makes it so heavy?”

“Rocks,” the man replied, “I’m taking them back home.”

“Where did you come from with the rocks?” the farmer asked.

“From home,” was the traveler’s reply.

The farmer’s quizzical look prompted an explanation from the traveler. “For some time now I’ve been burdened with guilt for a variety of things I have done wrong. I have asked God’s forgiveness, but I have never felt forgiven. The pastor in the village said it might help if I packed a bag with rocks, each representing a major sin over which I have guilt, including sins of which I’m not even aware. He told me to carry the bag of rocks to the foot of the large cross at the top of Cemetery Hill. That is what I did, and now I am going back home.”

The farmer looked at the traveler, amazed. “You are bringing the bag of rocks back home?”

“Yes,” replied the traveler, “and it’s just as much of a burden coming back from the cross as it was going to the cross.”

The farmer put a hand upon the weary shoulder of the traveler and said, “My friend, I am certain the pastor intended for you to leave your burden at the cross.”

“Really?” the traveler replied in surprise, then asked, “What should I do now?”

The farmer thought for a moment, then pointed to a low spot in the road within a stone’s throw of where they were sitting that was covered with a pool of muddy water. He said, “After a rain travelers have to navigate around that mud hole, which is difficult because of the brambles that line the road on both sides. Take your bag of rocks and fill the mud hole with them. You have asked that your sins be forgiven and they are. All that is left is for you to let go of the burden.”

The traveler did what the farmer suggested, emptying the bag of rocks into the muddy hole. He expressed his gratitude to the farmer, said good-bye, tossed the empty bag over his shoulder, walked across the mud hole with dry feet and, with a lightness in his steps, quickly was out of sight.

“If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.” 1 John 1:9

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