The following is a story that paints a picture for me that is so helpful to stop and consider as I travel on the path I believe God has created for me. This story is written by Rosemarie Kowalski and was used in Having a Mary Heart in a Martha World by Joanna Weaver, pages 48-51. I can understand how effective Jesus’ teaching was with parables, because stories that are illustrations of truth impact me in a way that helps me see. Learning what to say yes to and what to say no to is an ongoing lesson for me. Learning how to listen to others, but not take ownership of the emotional weights is an ongoing lesson for me. I want to empathize and really care for people and help people. Yet, how I go about doing that makes a difference. I want to do all that God would ask of me, but I know when I take on more than I can chew, the burden becomes more than I can bear. Lord, teach me to hear your voice so I know how to discern. May this story encourage you as well.
The story is told of a man who met God in a lovely valley one day.
“How are you this morning?” God asked the fellow.
“I’m fine, thank you,” the man replied. “Is there anything I can do for you today?”
“Yes, there is,” God said. “I have a wagon with three stones in it, and I need someone to pull it up the hill for me. Are you willing?”
“Yes, I’d love to do something for you. Those stones don’t look very heavy, and the wagon’s in good shape. I’d be happy to do that. Where would you like me to take it?”
God gave the man specific instructions, sketching a map in the dust at the side of the road. “Go through the woods and up the road that winds up the side of the hill. Once you get to the top, just leave the wagon there. Thank you for your willingness to help me today.”
“No problem!” the man replied and set off cheerfully. The wagon pulled a bit behind him, but the burden was an easy one. He began to whistle as he walked quickly through the forest. The sun peeked through the trees and warmed his back. What a joy to be able to help the Lord, he thought, enjoying the beautiful day.
Just around the third bend, he walked into a small village. People smiled and greeted him. Then, at the last house, a man stopped him and asked, “How are you this morning? What a nice wagon you have. Where are you off to?”
“Well, God gave me a job this morning. I’m delivering these three stones to the top of the hill.”
“My goodness! Can you believe it? I was just praying this morning about how I was going to get this rock I have up to the top of the mountain,” the man told him with great excitement. “You don’t suppose you could take it up there for me? It would be such an answer to prayer.”
The man with the wagon smiled and said, “Of course. I don’t suppose God would mind. Just put it behind the other three stones.” Then he set off with three stones and a rock rolling behind him.
The wagon seemed a bit heavier. He could feel the jolt of each bump, and the wagon seemed to pull to one side a bit. The man stopped to adjust the load as he sang a hymn of praise, pleased to be helping out a brother as he served God. Then he set off again and soon reached another small village at the side of the road. A good friend lived there and offered him a glass of cider.
“You’re going to the top of the hill?” his friend asked.
“Yes! I am so excited. Can you imagine, God gave me something to do!”
“Hey!” said his friend. “I need this bag of pebbles taken up. I’ve been so worried that it might not get taken care of since I haven’t any time to do it myself. But you could fit it in right between the three stones here in the middle.” With that, he placed his burden in the wagon.
“Shouldn’t be a problem,” the man said. “I think I can handle it.” He finished the cider, then stood up and brushed his hands on this overalls before gripping the handle of the wagon. He waved good-bye and began to pull the wagon back onto the road.
The wagon was definitely tugging on his arm now, but it wasn’t uncomfortable. As he started up the incline, he began to feel the weight of the three stones, the rock, and the pebbles. Still, it felt good to help a friend. Surely God would be proud of how energetic and helpful he’d been.
One little stop followed another, and the wagon grew fuller and fuller. The sun was hot above the man pulling it, and his shoulders ached with the strain. The songs of praise and thanksgiving that had filled his heart had long since left his lips as resentment began to build inside. Surely this wasn’t what he had signed up for that morning. God had given him a burden heavier than he could bear.
The wagon felt huge and awkward as it lumbered and swayed over the ruts in the road. Frustrated, the man was beginning to have visions of giving up and letting the wagon roll backward. God was playing a cruel game with him. The wagon lurched, and the load of obligations collided with a the back of his legs, leaving bruises. “This is it!” he fumed. “God can’t expect me to haul this all the way up the mountain.”
“Oh God,” he wailed. “This is too hard for me! I thought you were behind this trip, but I am overcome by the heaviness of it. You’ll have to get someone else to do it. I’m just not strong enough.”
As he prayed, God came to his side. “Sounds like you’re having a hard time. What’s the problem?”
“You gave me a job that is too hard for me,” the man sobbed. “I’m just not up to it!” God walked over to where the wagon was braced with a stone. “What is this?” He held up the bag of pebbles.
“That belongs to John, my good friend. He didn’t have time to bring it up himself. I thought I would help.”
“And this?” God tumbled two pieces of shale over the side of the wagon as the man tried to explain.
God continued to unload the wagon, removing both light and heavy items. They dropped to he ground, the dust swirling up around them. The man who had hoped to help God grew silent. “If you will be content to let others take their own burdens,” God told him, “I will help you with your task.”
“But I promised I would help! I can’t leave these things lying here.”
“Let others shoulder their own belongings,” God said gently. “I know you were trying to help, but when you are weighted down with all these cares, you cannot do what I have asked of you.”
The man jumped to his feet, suddenly realizing the freedom God was offering. “You mean I only have to take the three stones after all?” he asked.
“That is what I asked you to do.” God smiled. “My yoke is easy, and my burden is light. I will never ask you to carry more than you can bear.”
“I can do that!” said the man, grinning form ear to ear. He grabbed the wagon handle and set off once again, leaving the rest of the burdens beside the road. The wagon still lurched and jolted lightly, but he hardly noticed.
A new song filled his lips, and he noticed a fragrant breeze wafting over the path. With great joy he reached the top of the hill. It had been a wonderful day, for he had done what the Lord had asked.