Shirin McArthur

prayerful pondering

Icing on the Rock of Life


icing rockOn a recent hike my friend and I found a rock that reminded me of a cake—a deep rich cake slathered in a contrasting layer of white icing. Thinking about that now, I have to laugh a bit at myself—still seeing sugar in so many places! But another truth is that it’s a fitting image of our lives sometimes—a fluffy, sugar-coated surface hiding something rich and dark underneath…and in the case of the rock, quite hard.

We all hide certain parts of ourselves beneath a contrasting exterior. “Tough boys” can hide vulnerability, bubbly personalities can hide deep loneliness, and any of us can hide parts of ourselves that we believe won’t be acceptable in certain situations. We slather on that icing, nice and thick, so that people won’t see what we think of as “the hard stuff” that lies underneath.

We also experience rock-hard times in our lives. Dreams short-circuit in the face of reality. We make mistakes which have painful consequences. People move away, or move on, or die “on us.” We might be tempted to pile on the sugar coating, “make the best of things,” but the fact remains that life is full of suffering as well as joy—and if we did not experience the suffering, we wouldn’t have a context for appreciating the joy and beauty that appear at other times.

I asked my friend to let me take a picture of this rock, in her hands, for this blog. She asked if I wanted to keep the rock, and I told her the picture was enough. At the time I was thinking of all the rocks I have accumulated along my life’s journey, and how quickly I forget the stories behind particular rocks, leaving me with a pile of past rocks that have no present meaning for me. It is the image in the moment, rather than something enduring, which tends to be the best teacher for me.

Which might be why God keeps putting rocks in my path—so that I can keep learning.

Are there images, metaphors, or items (like rocks) that repeatedly appear on your own life’s journey? Do you remember the life lessons, the images/metaphors/items, or both? If you become still for a few moments now, is there something in particular that comes to mind?


Author: Shirin McArthur

I'm a spiritual guide, retreat leader, writer and editor.

2 thoughts on “Icing on the Rock of Life

  1. Well said. The rocks I’ve found along the way I bring home for our backyard fountain. I like the metaphor of rock and water for life’s journey. Like you, I don’t remember the meaning I had when I found each stone; nor do I remember all my experiences. But, what I see is the totality that comes over time as I carefully and reflectively gather in the stones for both my fountain and my life.


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