I wrote this story a few years ago to help my students understand confession. I was noticing more and more students in my office who were dealing the burden of unconfessed sin. They were holding on to sin and trying to find ways to still follow God while carrying these burdens. No matter how many times I explained the concept of grace ad forgiveness it was not sinking in, so I wrote skipping stones…
One day a young boy named Billy found himself in a dream, he wasn’t asleep, at least it didn’t seem that way, instead everything just seemed more real then regular things sometimes do.
In this dream Billy found himself walking on an enormous sandy beach. A beach like Billy had never, ever seen before or had even heard of. The sand was very small, so much so that it felt almost like dust and if you were to pick it up it would fly away in the breeze, yet still it was soft, yet firm beneath his feet and felt gritty between his toes. The sand was white, but not like paint, or even paper, it was pale like your skin when you are cold.
The beach stretched out for miles before him, as far as he could see. The sky was blue, sort of. like a pale non-commital kind of blue with no sun at all. And yet there was light and Billy could see quite far into the distance without having to squint because the light, or whatever it was, did not hurt his eyes.
Billy walked towards the water…
As he approached, he could make out the figure of a man, standing by the water. Billy did not know who this man was but in every way he seemed familiar to Billy, as if he somehow knew him. As Billy got closer he realized that he was comfortable with this man. It seemed as though he was Billy’s grandpa, or Uncle, close family friend or even possibly his own Dad. But Billy knew this man was not any one of those men and yet he knew in his heart that this man was closer to him than all of those.
“Billy” said the man, “come look at the water.”
Billy walked to where the man stood on the shore and looked out into the ocean. The water stretched on and on, far into the horizon, and seemed to blend into the sky. For at the horizon the water was darkest, not dark, that’s not a good word for it, the water was black, and when it hit the horizon the blackness bled into the sky, forcing the almost colourless sky to retreat in the face of the dark presence. At the water’s edge it was a murky sort of grey, see through, but not really transparent. But as Billy gazed further into the depths of this water it seemed to take on the texture and substance of tar, a liquid darkness that kind of scared Billy, but not really.
The water was calm, no wind, no waves, no… no anything really, just that strange sense of peace that seemed quite out of place in this desolate world.
“wanna skip some rocks?” the man asked, “the water’s perfect for it today.”
“yeah sure,” said Billy all excited and ready to go. He looked around and realized there was not a rock in sight, just sand, sky and water.
“but where are we going to get some rocks?” Billy asked.
“Umm, how about we use those ones you’ve been carrying around all this time?” Said the man. And his eyes moved down to Billy’s hands which were hanging down at his sides.
“What rocks have I been…” Billy stammered as his eyes looked down at his own hands. “Oh,” he said, as he saw that in each hand he was holding a large metal bucket full of black stones. “Oh those.” Billy said in confusion. He hadn’t realized they were there but now that he knew they suddenly became very heavy and Billy had to drop the buckets for the weight of them had become unbearable.
As the buckets landed and spilled out onto the ground the man reached down and picked one up. “These are perfect,” he said. “Perfect for skipping.”
The stones were very smooth, flat and round. Billy thought they must have been the best skipping rocks he had ever seen. Each one was exactly the same. Billy had never seen a colour like them, it was like a black, like a cold dark black, like the colour of midnight, the colour of guilt, and yet they were almost see through… you could look into them and just about see the blackness move, like a whisper of a cloud or smoke from a flame. Billy was beginning to think there was something special, or precious about these stones.
In an instant the man stood up and whipped that first stone out onto the water. It flew through the air, singing as it went, spinning like a top and it hit the water… In the instant it hit the water Billy noticed two things, first it bounced, a glorious bounce, an amazing bounce, almost astonishing, as though on its collision with the surface it actually picked up speed.
The second was that the impact on the water caused the surface to react. Not like water would react, regular water splashes and ripples and throws up water because it is full of life, and grace and gravity. This water shuddered on impact and broke like skin on gravy, it rippled slowly like thick maple syrup, black tar or molasses, but man, did that rock fly. It bounced and bounced clear on into the horizon until Billy could see it no more.
“Wow, mister can I try?” asked Billy, eyes wide with excitement.
“They’re your rocks, let er rip.” Said the man as he kneeled down to Billy’s level and handed him a rock.
Billy fired one over his shoulder and as hard as his little arm could. It careened into the air in a grand ark and came down hard into the water, but for a moment Billy thought it wasn’t going to sink. His stone bit into the surface and sat for a moment like a sword in a stone and then dropped like lead to the bottom of that ocean never to be seen again.
“We might have to work on your form.” Joked the man, as he threw another stone. They both laughed.
Stone after stone, this one skipping, this one sailing, this one setting the world record for most skips beyond a number that Billy can count to. They threw and threw and threw, laughing and joking and egging each other on. Until finally they reached the last stone.
It lay in the bottom of one of the buckets and Billy felt bad. Not because he wanted to keep the stone but because their time together would soon be over and the fun would have to end. The man kneeled down beside Billy and picked up that last stone.
“Let me tell you about this stone Billy,” said the man, “this is my favourite thing to do. When I am skipping stones, I get to spend time with you, and I get to throw away these stones. It may seem like a lot of fun but these times are very important to me and they are very important for you. I know it seems like we are out of stones but there will be more, and soon you will understand where they come from and maybe you might even be ashamed of how many you get. The truth is Billy, nothing makes me happier than skipping people’s stones. When you bring these stones to me, I can toss them away and you no longer have to carry them.”
“It is also very important that you not carry around too many Billy. If you are willing to meet me here, we can skip stones every day, so that your buckets are never too heavy for you. But, if you don’t bring them to me, you’ll just have to carry them with you all of the time.
I know that these stones seem small, and maybe somewhat insignificant but Billy, if you carry around too many, you are going to feel it, and it is going to hurt you. So what do you say Billy, same time tomorrow.”
“Ok” said Billy and watched as the last stone went spinning off into the horizon and disappeared.
Who is a God like you,
who pardons sin and forgives the transgression
of the remnant of his inheritance?
You do not stay angry forever
but delight to show mercy.
You will again have compassion on us;
you will tread our sins underfoot
and hurl all our iniquities into the depths of the sea.
Micah 7:18 – 19