Fifteen years ago, a couple of teenagers were out messing around near their homes in Jerusalem. They came upon an excavation site of an ancient battlefield that had been uncovered. When the boys saw a pile of perfectly round stones, one of them knew that he just had to have one, so he took one home with him.
Turns out that the stone was more than a cool, round rock – it was a “ballista bolt.” Now a “ballista” was a weapon that was used for attacking a city. If you think about loading a giant crossbow with a rock the size of a bowling ball, you’ve got the idea. The ballista has the same purpose as a trebuchet or catapult: Hurl large rocks at your enemy to destroy them and their defenses.
This particular battlefield dated back to around 70AD, which is when the Romans destroyed the Temple, making it an important site to the Israel Antiquities Authority. Sure, it was a rock, but it was an historical rock, involved in the destruction of Jerusalem.
In the fifteen years since he stole the stone, the young man’s life moved on. A lot can happen between the ages of fifteen and thirty. The stone he took was still rolling around his house all those years.
Fast forward to just this past week, when the boy/man decided it was time to return the stone. He enlisted the help of a middleman to reach out to the Israel Antiquities Authority to give it back, allowing him to return it anonymously.
The intermediary, named Moshe Manies, contacted Authority via Facebook and explained the situation this way:
“One of the boys took one of the stones home. Meanwhile, he married and raised a family, and told me that for the past 15 years the stone is weighing heavily on his heart. And now, when he came across it while cleaning for Passover, together with the apocalyptic feeling the Coronavirus generated, he felt the time was ripe to clear his conscience, and he asked me to help him return it to the Israel Antiquities Authority ”. (link)
The stone was returned through the intermediary, and the boy’s 15 year burden was lifted.
Yes, I could just leave it at that, because the message is just so apparent, but I will add a few thoughts.
I find the man’s timing interesting. Two things were going on: First, he was cleaning his house for Passover when he rediscovered the stone. Apparently, cleaning the house before Passover is a little more complicated than I thought. I quickly learned this when I found the article, “How to Clean for Passover (In 10 Days or Less.” Seriously?
So the young man’s preparation for a spiritual event reminded him of something unresolved – something that had burdened him for fifteen years.
Second, the current fears brought on by the coronavirus pandemic caused some worry in the young man’s heart – the “end of the world” kind of worry that can prompt us to repent. I’m sure I am not the only one who has entertained these thoughts.
Unnecessarily carrying. a burden for fifteen years seems self-defeating and excessive – because it is. However, it is not rare. Without disclosing anything confidential, I can tell you that when I served as Bishop, (And I imagine any bishop could confirm this) I encountered repentant souls who were burdened, unnecessarily for months, years, even decades. Some had carried a burden of guilt and shame for one night, others for one year, others for 15 years, others for 30 years. It was tragic to witness, yet glorious to witness the Atonement heal those broken things.
Hanging onto a stone for fifteen years is not so uncommon, metaphorically.
That stone could be an unresolved sin, a grudge, a regret, something stolen, something unspoken, something spoken, doing something wrong, not doing something right, etc. There are so many things we hang onto unnecessarily.
The Savior begged us to unload those things on Him when He said, “Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give thee rest.” (Matthew 11:28)
Like the young man with the stone, we find ourselves in a unique set circumstances. Many of us are self-quarantining. Our lives are suddenly different. While some are fearful that this latest plague portends the end of the world, others don’t. Which ever side you are on, one thing is for certain: Times like these, with a sudden influx of personal time, gives us new opportunities for self-examination, and a better context to do it.
What things am I hanging onto that I should offload to the Lord? At first blush, we might think there aren’t any, but I’m confident to say that if we spend some time thinking about it, the Spirit will help us realize those things that we need to resolve – through our intermediary – Jesus Christ.
Alma added a sense of urgency:
“And now, my brethren, I wish, from the inmost part of my heart, yea, with great anxiety even unto pain, that ye would hearken unto my words, and cast off your sins, and not procrastinate the day of your repentance.” (Alma 13:27)
The best time to repent is right now.
We are also two weeks out from General Conference. While we do not need to spend “Ten Days or Less,” cleaning our homes before Conference, there is wisdom in taking those two weeks to do some spiritual house cleaning before then. Why? As we “clean house,” and disencumber ourselves from needless burdens and shame, we are more prepared to enjoy the spiritual feast that we will be offered. And we could all use a spiritual feast right about now.
Do you have any old stones that you’ve been hoarding? Perhaps it’s time to get rid of them.
Elder Neil L. Anderson said, “I am amazed at the Savior’s encircling arms of mercy and love for the repentant, no matter how selfish the forsaken sin. I testify that the Savior is able and eager to forgive our sins.” (link)
The intermediary is ready to help, if we just reach out. The Savior is waiting with arms outstretched. If you need help finding Him, contact your Bishop. Part of his stewardship is to help get you in touch with the intermediary that can lead you to an unburdened life.
The timing is excellent. There are opportunities in the chaos to find peace and introspection. Let’s not wait fifteen years to unload an old stone.