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The Stone Sanctuary

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The Stone Sanctuary

Life can be so harsh that at times we feel the need to run and hide somewhere away from everything and everyone. That is how she was feeling that morning as she left the house to go for a walk. Walking was a release for her. It helped her to occupy her time. At least she was doing something and not just sitting there bemoaning her retched existence.
She would often pray as she walked; pouring out her pain and sorrow to the only one who cared. The only one who would never leave her or hurt her. Physically she walked alone, but the Lord was always with her. He was not only her Savior; He was her best friend as well. He understood her like no one else could. She loved Him so much and leaned on Him for everything.

As she walked she was somewhat oblivious to her surroundings. Her thoughts often kept her distracted and she may well have missed some wonderful blessing along the way. She did not really care what was around her or what she might be missing. She had lost her desire to be in the world, she didn’t belong here. With all of her heart she longed to be with her Father in heaven. To be in His presence away from all the sin, guilt, and shame that held one captive in this world.
She would spend long hours searching His word and thinking about His promises. Knowing that her time had not yet come for her to journey home, she was doing her best to enjoy the life that He had given her here. That was not always easy. There were many who wanted to take advantage of her and use her for a means to their own selfish gain. Being a loving person made it even harder for her to understand how people could be so hateful and mean.
All of these things were going through her head when she suddenly realized she had no idea where she was. She paused to look around wondering where it was she had wandered off to in her dream like state.

She did not recognize this place at all. There was an elaborate stonewall that seemed to go on and on. As she walked along the path that lay beside it, she came to a large gate that was partially open.
The place seemed to be beckoning to her to come in. Curiosity got the better of her and she pushed the gate a little and found that it moved easily. She stepped inside the gate and found herself in a very large garden. It was quite beautiful with its massive shade trees, luscious green grass, and delightful flowerbeds. There was a cobblestone path that wound through the garden and across a charming little wooden bridge. Beneath the bridge was a small trickling stream that was so clear you could see the stone covered bottom and a beautiful rare variety of fish swimming about. Here and there along the path were sturdy stone benches on which to rest when you grew weary.

Exhausted by life and tiring from her walk in the warmth of the day, she chose a well-crafted bench under a nearby shade tree to relax for a while. She leaned back, closed her eyes and breathed in the freshness of the garden air. The smell of nature was clean, crisp, and refreshing with just a hint of the flowers’ sweet perfume.

The tension began to ease from her body as the cool breeze rustled through the leaves and tousled her long flowing curls. Her mane defined her and set her apart from all of those with the trendy styles. She kept it long so she had something to hide behind when needed. Oh, how she loved the feel of the wind blowing through it. Somehow it made her feel like one of the beautiful people; the ones who looked good all the time, were confident, loved, and successful.

The water gently rippling over the rocks had a calming effect. The birds were singing; obviously enjoying the warm autumn day. Squirrels were scurrying about collecting their food for winter. Occasionally they would stop, chatter to one another, and then take off again. She was truly enjoying the peacefulness and solitude that permeated everything around her.

She was nearly asleep when a voice above her startled her. Where had he come from? She had not heard anyone approach her. She found herself fumbling for something to say, something that would explain her presence. She started rambling; she always rambled when she was nervous. She apologized, saying that she had meant no harm. She had been walking and somehow had ended up here. Being weary she thought it would be okay to take a little rest on one of the shaded benches.

He listened patiently and then assured her that it was okay. He was not upset with her. This was His garden and she was welcome to come anytime she wanted. As a matter of fact that was the whole reason for the presence of the garden; to give rest to the weary. He asked her to walk with Him so that He could show her around. As they walked and she listened to Him speak, she had the strangest feeling that somehow she knew Him. His voice was so familiar and it was so comfortable to be with Him.

He continued to speak, telling her that many came to this sanctuary when life became overwhelming to them. Some were so wounded that they would stay for quite some time. The sanctuary offered them a place where they could feel safe and protected. They were afraid to live in the world, afraid of being hurt. She could understand that. She felt that way herself.
He went on to explain that everyone tries to protect him or herself to some degree. In doing so, some can appear to become hard like stone. But, what others see as being hard, cold, and calloused may just be their way of protecting themselves from more pain. Unfortunately when hurt people try to protect themselves they can end up hurting others. This causes a cycle of pain and brokenness that is not easily mended.

Things are not always as they appear He told her. You have to learn to look with your heart not just your eyes. You must strive to see people as their Creator sees them. As humans we tend to see only the external and miss much of what is in the heart and soul of another being. If we could look beyond what we can see to what we cannot see we would have a better understanding of people and why they do the things they do.

Listening to the wisdom He was speaking was so encouraging. She knew that He was speaking truth. She knew because of her own experiences. Many people did not see her for what she truly was. Some viewed her as competent, smart, and successful. Others viewed her with contempt, as worthless, and insignificant. Still others believed her to be crazy, pessimistic, or depressed. But, none of these people truly knew her heart or her hurt.

After they had walked for some time, He invited her to sit and rest with Him. They had journeyed deeper into the garden and it was even more beautiful here. She sat mesmerized by His voice, His presence, and her surroundings. She was in awe that such a place even existed; and to think, it was within walking distance of her home. Why had she never noticed it before? Surely such a splendid place would be hard to miss.

Suddenly she realized that they were not alone. Yet there was something different about the people she was seeing. They appeared to be…could they be…stone? That was it! The whole garden was full of statues. She could hardly believe it. She had always considered herself to be an observant person who was aware of all that was around her. But today she had discovered a garden, a large garden, which she never knew existed. Then after walking through the garden and noticing only the nature around her, stone statues were appearing out of nowhere. Was she losing her mind?

He laughed softly and assured her that everything was okay. He told her that sometimes we do not fully see all that is until we are ‘ready’ to see. She wondered what He meant by that. He told her to be patient, and assured her that many things would be revealed in time. For now, He said she should consider the things that had been made known to her today. He encouraged her to explore the garden and its inhabitance to see what else she might learn.

Then He left her to her thoughts. He said He had much to tend to in the garden, but He told her if she needed him for anything, she could just call on Him and He would be with her. He was never far away. Before she could even respond or knew just what had happened, she was alone once again. She sat there for a long time somewhat dazed and overwhelmed by all she had seen and heard so far this day.

She was lost in thought, contemplating the things the Gardner had shared with her, the things she had seen, and the feelings churning inside her. Suddenly a slight movement caught her eye. She figured it was just the Gardner doing whatever it was He had gone to do, but when she looked He was not there. All she could see were the statues she had just recently become aware of. But now they appeared to be moving. She rubbed her eyes and looked again, sure she was just overly tired and seeing things.

Nope! They were moving. Why not? After all, this had been the craziest day she could ever remember. As she watched the scene unfold before her eyes, her ears joined in picking up a distant murmur resembling that of conversation, laughter, weeping, and yelling. She was really questioning her sanity now.

Had she entered some kind of alternate reality? What was going on? Maybe she was not really awake and out for a walk, but merely dreaming. Whatever the case, she decided to just go along with the whole bizarre event and see where it would lead. There did not appear to be any apparent danger and the Gardner was there somewhere should any develop.

A soft, almost inaudible voice reminded her to look beyond what she could see with her physical eyes. It encouraged her to trust Him and allow Him to open the eyes of her heart so she could truly see. Very cautiously she arose from the bench and ventured just a little closer to the nearest statues. As she moved closer the sounds became louder and the stone seemed to melt away revealing a more flesh and bone appearance. None of them seemed to acknowledge her presence, so she continued to walk among them and observe them from different angles.
It was fascinating to watch them move about and interact with one another. She felt as though she was in some sort of fantasyland, but all was not happy and blissful. Some of the statues were down right mean and somewhat scary. Some she could tell were angry but tried their best not to show it or let it take control of them. Some were so depressed and broken they could hardly function at all. Others appeared arrogant and self-righteous. While others acted as though they were completely indifferent and unfeeling.
There were statues of all different sizes, shapes, colors, and age. A few of them were absolutely beautiful by the world’s standards. They were perfectly carved and caught the eye of all who passed by. However, though they were moving about and occasionally interacting with the others, many of them retained their stony cold outer surface. She thought about the scripture that says, “man looks at the outside, but God looks at the heart.”
She tried to see into their hearts with the new sight she had been given, but it was not easy. Their ‘shells’ were quite thick and hard to see through. In those that were so cold, she could see what appeared to be a dark cloud. It was constantly toiling and trying to snuff out any light that might be left. In some she could see a flicker of light, but others appeared to have let their light go out altogether. Not only was their exterior a hardened stone, but their hearts seemed to be as well. She continued to watch them trying to determine what it was that had caused them to become so dark, cold, and rigid.

Other statues might not have been as physically appealing, yet they were much warmer and more inviting. As she observed them to see what made the difference, she noticed that their internal flames burned brighter. They were much kinder to others, more loving and caring. Though she could see the cloud in them, it was much smaller. She knew that they had been wounded as well, yet they did not allow the darkness to over power the light of the Creator.

But it was the little ones that drew her attention the most. They seemed to be victims of their surroundings. They were not able to make choices, as the bigger ones were able to do. They were at the mercy of the bigger ones, subjected to their bad choices. Oh how her heart hurt for them. She remembered what it was like, how frustrated she had been. What bothered her even more than the hurt was the lack of light. They did not have anyone to show them where the light came from.

She thought about the words of the Gardener, “everyone tries to protect him or herself to some degree. Unfortunately when hurt people try to protect themselves they can end up hurting others. This causes a cycle of pain and brokenness that is not easily mended.” If something did not change, if these little ones were not led to the light, the cycle of darkness, pain, and brokenness would continue.

Something needed to be done. But what could she do? As she thought about it, she realized she too had been one of the statues in the garden. She had surrounded her heart and soul with a wall of stone in an attempt to protect herself from the hurtful world in which she lived. That wall had not only kept her pain inside, but had kept her from sharing the light with others. How many people had she hurt with her selfishness?

Having had her eyes opened and seeing the pain of others, inflamed the fire in her heart disintegrating the stone that bound her. It gave her an overwhelming compassion for those who were hurting. She could feel a desire burning in her heart to help those who had sealed themselves off from the world break free from their stone prisons. Another scripture came to mind reminding her to comfort others with the comfort she had received. Life had not been kind to her; she had faced much heartache, yet her Heavenly Father had never abandoned her. He was faithful and true, loving and merciful. She knew that He could free them. She had to let them know.
When one surrounds them self with a wall of protection, they do not realize they have sealed pain inside. They think that they are protecting themselves from further pain, yet they are holding on to the very pain that caused them to become cut off. Ironically, pain can enter in through the wall, yet it is very difficult for it to get out. This causes the inner hurt to grow and the person to further isolate him or herself. They may not intend to hurt others, but it is inevitable. Have you ever run into stone and not been hurt?

I will not lie to you; there is no way to live a pain free existence. However, there is One who cannot only help you endure the pain, but He can help you to over come it and use it to help others. Don’t let the darkness of this world close you off and snuff out His light. Instead seek out the source of light, let Him make the light brighter, and then spread that light to others. Only the flame of the Creator, shared from one creation to another, can dissolve that which encapsulates the heart and soul.

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