On the Rocks

On the Rocks

From Chicken Soup for the Soul: Stories of Faith

On the Rocks

We are here not only to learn about love,
but to also support and teach our fellow travelers on this journey.

~Mary Manin Morressey

The view high up in the Colorado Rocky Mountains was breathtaking. All around us the mountains were snow-capped, even though it was July.

I was on an outing, but it was not a pleasant one. My girlfriend, Paula, was upstream; I was downstream. I should have been delightedly skipping flat stones across the stream, but instead I sat on a huge boulder watching the crystal-clear water rushing over the rocks. And that suited me just fine.

Once, it had been so much fun to be together—I thought that I might be falling in love. But today Paula was acting strangely. This was supposed to be a wonderful, exhilarating date—the surroundings were spectacular. Yet I agonized over Paula’s silent treatment of me. It seemed that a wall of ice had been building between us, and I couldn’t melt it.

Confused and feeling rejected, I pulled a small pocket edition of the Bible from my back pocket. I wanted to read something to get my mind off my pain. The previous day I had stopped reading in the middle of a chapter. Heaving a sigh, I found the place where I had stopped reading. Half-heartedly I continued: “Love your enemies.”

Enemies? I perked up as I read. That’s Paula. Look how she was acting toward me! It went on to say, “Do good to those who mistreat you.” Yes, she sure was mistreating me. Her rotten behavior toward me made me want to withdraw. Who needed that kind of pain?

As I continued reading, this verse really caught my attention: “Give and it will be given to you... for with the measure you use, it will be measured to you.”

My focus had been on myself. I felt justified in my anger. Paula had made it plain to me by her coldness that our relationship was over. After all that I had done for her, she was putting our relationship into a deep freeze.

“Give, and it will be given to you.” As the mountain stream cascaded over the rocks, thoughts rushed through my mind about the nature of true friendship. Even when hurt or misunderstood, a true friend reaches out to bridge the gap. A true friend is a giver, not a taker.

I was appalled at my own self-pity. My focus had been on “enemies,” but now I realized it was better to focus on “love.” “Melt that ice—starting from my side of the wall,” I mumbled to myself. It would definitely be difficult to begin acting kindly toward Paula. She might totally reject me or hurt me even more. I decided the risk would be worth it.

More than an hour had elapsed since we had parted. As I searched for her, I finally saw her way upstream, sitting on the rocks near the loud, gurgling water. She didn’t notice me because she was facing the other way, and the roar of the rushing stream drowned out my steps.

When I got within ten feet of her and looked at the back of her head, I thought, I am too nervous to open my heart to her. I retreated to the trees along the bank. My nervousness was eating me alive.

I tried approaching her a second time, but retreated to the trees again with my self-respect at an all-time low. But the verse kept flooding my mind: “Give, and it will be given to you.” That gave me courage, but not quite enough. I knew that if I tried a third time, I would chicken out again. Then it hit me—get her attention from a distance. If she sees me, I will have to go talk with her.

I shouted, rustled some trees and banged some branches. Have you ever tried to make a noise louder than a roaring mountain stream? It’s impossible. So I decided to throw some stones—not at her, but near her so she would turn around and see me.

It worked. When she turned and noticed me, I ventured out onto the rocks where she was sitting.

“Hi,” I said. The lump in my throat felt as big as the boulder I sat down on next to her. “Mind if I join you for a few minutes?”

“No, I don’t mind,” she replied with a surprised look on her face.

“What have you been doing?” It was awkward, but I couldn’t come up with anything better.

“Oh, thinking. What have you been doing?”

“Reading. May I show you what I read?” I was sure that she could hear my heart pounding in my chest.

“Sure.”

I pulled out my Bible and began to read: “Love your enemies.” I wanted to make some comment, but I was afraid I would lose my composure. “Give, and it will be given to you.” I cleared my throat.

I stammered, “For the past few days, whenever I tried to communicate with you, I felt as if there were a wall of ice between us. You may never want to see me again, but I want to let you know my innermost feelings toward you. I care a lot about you and want to be your friend. If you don’t want to date anymore, I’ll be disappointed, but I still want to be your friend.”

I paused, waiting for an angry rebuttal. What I received was a surprise.

“Would you like me to tell you what I have been thinking?” Paula asked.

“Yes! What have you been thinking?”

“I have started to like you, but I was afraid that you would reject me. My former boyfriend really hurt me, and I did not want to go through that kind of pain again. So, to protect my heart, I have been keeping you away. I’m sorry. Will you forgive me?”

Right there on the rocks we began to break through our barriers of fear. The wall of ice melted. Oh, how easy it is to think the worst about someone, and so difficult to think the best. Building the foundation of a close relationship takes courage, but the lesson I received next to that mountain stream was this: Seek to be a trusted friend, and keep taking the risk to communicate with honesty and humility.

Our experience on the rocks was wonderful. So wonderful that six months later, sitting in a romantic restaurant in Atlanta, Georgia, I asked Paula to marry me—to be my best friend for life.

On our wedding day, we exchanged rings. Inscribed inside each of our rings are the words, “Give, and it will be given to you.”

Whenever I look at my ring, I am reminded to be a giver, not a taker. And that simple thought has made all the difference in our sixteen years of marriage.

~Dick Purnell

Chicken Soup for the Single’s Soul

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