Imagine, if you will, that your body is filled with rocks. You have no idea how many are inside you, but you suspect a lot because you feel the weight of them in every step, every breath. They keep you pinned to this earth, they keep you afraid, and they keep you enslaved to your moods and your whims. They keep you from living your life–only, you’re not aware this is what they’re doing. For years, you walk around heavy, hunched, bracing your hands against the rocks in your belly, assuming, without even realizing you’re assuming it, that this is how life is. You are heavy, and there’s nothing to do but plod on. So on, you plod.

But one day, the weight becomes too much. It happens just like that, the straw that snaps the proverbial camel’s spine, after which, you flat-out cannot plod on as you are. It is at this moment you realize you need help–yes, you, self-sufficient, pull-yourself-up-by-your-running-shoelaces, got-where-you-are-by-your-own-blood-and-sweat you. Because you cannot walk on alone. And when you lift your bowed and humbled head, it is then that you see God, standing in front of you, watching you, waiting. Help, you say. God nods, and then He takes out a knife.

You jump back, hands instinctively flying to your belly, guarding it, and you shake your head, No, no, no. But God walks towards you, takes one of your hands in His, then the other, and places them at your sides. Trust me, He says, and you are broken and desperate enough to do it. You shut your eyes and lift your shirt. God pushes in the knife. You gasp, and He braces your shoulder as He splits you from hips to sternum. And yes–it hurts.

And when you catch your breath, open your eyes, the knife is gone, and your belly is a red and gaping wound. You look at God, who locks eyes with you and reaches a hand into your gut, until He’s wrist-deep in your flesh. Again, your breathing stalls, sputters, and He works, like a surgeon, like a miner, twisting and pulling and dislodging something that clings to a great depth within you. When He pulls out His hand, you suck in a strained and wheezy breath, your heart pumping like mad. In His palm, God is holding a rock, craggy and ugly and bloody, and you’re horrified to know it came from inside you. You’re embarrassed to have it out in the open, but already, you feel lighter. And this is good.

God is looking at you, rock still in His hand, and you don’t know why, but you nod. And when you do, He sets the rock on the ground between you, pulls a sledge hammer from behind His back, and smashes that rock to shards. You feel this break deep, deep inside you, in a place for which there is no man-made name. A swift wind blows in and whips the fragments away. You watch as the remnants of that rock are carried into the distance, until they disappear, and then, you feel better. That throbbing ache subsides. You turn back to God, and you say, Is that all? He gives you a small, sad smile and reaches into your stomach again.

And this is how it goes for the next year–God’s hands inside of you, prying out rocks, more rocks than one body can logically contain. More rocks, so many rocks, until at a certain point, after each one He removes, you think, Surely, surely, this is all. But then He reaches in yet again, and each time, pulls out a bigger rock than before. And each extraction leaves you gasping, shaking, questioning. Some of them even make you drop to your knees, face to the dirt, crying, No more, no more. But at the same time, that desperation for lightness, for rescue burns within you, until it becomes louder than the pain and the fear. And so while you’re saying, No, you are also begging, Yes. Each time you fall, God picks you up and sets you on your feet and reaches in to extract another rock.

Sometimes, the rock He pulls out surprises you. You didn’t realize it was bad, or at least, not that bad. Sometimes, it’s even something you’re attached to, and you lurch forward, say, Wait. God pauses. He holds out the rock, and you hover your hand over it, considering, fingers straining to grab. Sometimes, you don’t react until He sets the rock on the ground, poised to smash it. Sometimes, you look at that rock for days, weeks, before you let it go. Because here’s the thing–this is a choice, like taking medicine. No one is going to make you do it (at least not if you’re over eighteen and/or not declared clinically insane), but you know ingesting that medicine is the only way to heal. You look at God, the rock, feel the hole in your belly, the weight that still torments you, and you want more than anything to make that go away. You say, Really, God? This, too? And God says, Yes. And so you drop your hand, and you let Him break this rock, too.

It’s been a year, and you cannot believe how many rocks God has taken from you, can’t believe how much darkness existed within you, the great extent to which it kept you from living as fully as you could’ve been, or the awareness you’ve now acquired of how much evil you still contain. But despite it all, you’d never take those rocks back. Despite it all, you know where you are now is better than where you were. And true, things in your life are looking pretty grim, and true, from a human standpoint, you are going about fixing those things all wrong. You’ve become complacent, you’re being unproductive, and you are not trying hard enough to get what you need. But from God’s standpoint–where you’re now standing–that isn’t the case. You’ve felt what happens when you let Him work, felt what replaces all those weighty rocks He removes–light, so much light, and an uncanny peace–and now there’s no other way of going about this. You’re filled with rocks, you need to get rid of them, and the only way to do that is surrender. So you have to surrender.

Surrender, even though your entire life up until now has been about resisting. Surrender, even though it’s foreign and uncomfortable and so counterintuitive to the ways of your stubborn, prideful heart. Surrender, even though you might lose everything about the life you know. Surrender, even though it hurts more than you thought possible, and even though you have no way of knowing how many rocks are left inside you. Surrender, even though you suspect that God will be taking rocks from your body for as long as you remain on this earth. Surrender, say, Yes, okay, God, take that, too. Surrender the things you didn’t even know you were holding onto. Surrender them, and watch God shatter them into unrecognizable pieces, swept away by the wind, forgiven, forgotten. Surrender, and let those rocks be replaced with fertile soil, with color, with sun and white clouds. Surrender, and feel your burdens lessen, feel what’s heavy in you lighten, one broken rock at a time.