Serena used to glide when she had no stones. She used to leap across the sky swiftly and easily, smiling to the world, until she came to the tall, oak-wood door of home.
Then the day came when Serena lost her home, her smile—everything. She trudged down a road, slowly, never looking back at the oak-wood door.
That was her first stone, her first burden. Ever since, a dull, gray stone was added every day to the burden on Serena’s back, as she took the path to who-knew-where.
Serena didn’t know who she was anymore.
She sang a lament of a song as she fought the tears from escaping her weary eyes that had lost all brightness. She felt the stares and the glares, and sometimes she had to run because the stones hit her—people hit her with the stones. The weight would grow heavier and she would hurt deeper as she would trudge more slowly on the path to who-knew-where.
Serena had enough stones. She didn’t know if she could bear the weight of them any longer.
Serena knew she wasn’t any good—the stones told her so. After all, sometimes she’d hit the people trudging beside her with stones too. So, maybe she was the one to blame.
One day, Serena didn’t care what the stones thought—what anybody thought. The heaviness she carried was just too much. Too much.
She tried to glide again—to be free. She made a running start, but her one feeble attempt added another stone to her back. More weight, more pain, more tears.
She had made a mistake, and everybody knew it. They blamed her for it. Everyone blamed her for trying to be happy again—for trying to escape the stones that burdened her, that were now apart of her.
This was who she was. How could she have thought there was anything more for her?
And even if her leap of foolishness had worked, they said, it was the wrong way—she had taken the wrong path. All this time she had been taking the wrong path, they said. That’s why Serena had to carry the stones on her back. But which wasthe right path?
So many steps for nothing. So much pain for nothing.
Serena wept. Didn’t they see the stones on their backs?
People surrounded her, each gripping a stone twice as big as their fist.
Serena shuddered. She shrank back from them, but they blocked her from escaping. She became the center of the circle—the one object of attention. She was the one to blame.
Another stone was then added to her burden, and she cried out from the weight of it. Her knees gave way as she fell to the dirt ground.
It was too heavy. They were jeering at her: “Serena, with the stones on her back!”
“She tried to be free, to glide off the ground like a little bird when she’s nothing but a stone-carrier!”
“So many stones, so many stones! She’ll never find the right path, that one!”
She held her knees to her chest and sobbed at the sound of the angry voices. They blamed her, when she was too weak to carry these stones anymore.
“Whoever among you has never taken a wrong path—cast the first stone!” A male voice declared in the midst of the jeering crowd.
Serena looked up to see an unkempt man standing an arm’s length away. Standing in the center of the circle, right beside her. Being surrounded—being blamed—right beside her.
She squeezed her eyes shut, waiting for the heavy blow of the first stone from one of those people who had somehow found the right path and never strayed. She waited, sucking in her breath, listening so carefully, but only hearing shuffling footsteps and low, murmuring voices.
No stone came. Serena exhaled slowly and opened her eyes.
The dirty man smiled down at her, and behind him, there was not a person in sight. She looked left and right. She turned around to look behind her—not a single one.
“They didn’t . . . they didn’t blame me?” she asked in a small voice.
“Of course not,” the man said, reaching out his hand to her. “No one can follow the right path perfectly.”
Serena grasped his hand impulsively, using his strength to help her to her feet.
“Thank you,” she said, smiling for the first time in many years. But as soon as the words escaped her, she realized what she had done. She was on her feet again! She reached with her hand to feel for the stones on her back. Nothing. The heavy, dull stones that had burdened her for so many long years had completely vanished.
She ran and leapt over the dirt; the relief and joyous emptiness inside her was too much to contain. She was free of the stones and of everything that burdened her. The joy overwhelmed her as she felt the air blowing passed her as her feet left the ground.
When she hit the earth again, the dirty man beckoned her to come to him, so she stopped in her tracks and rushed back to the man who had saved her from the crowd and the stones.
He held out something to her—a small, polished white stone with small letters written neatly on the smooth surface.
“Whoever delights in Me, I give to them a white stone with words written to them, which only they can read.” His face beamed like a lantern in the darkest night. “I see you have found the joy to glide again, Serena. Now pursue it—never lose it. And travel the right path that leads to Me. For I have taken your burden upon myself. I have done it for you, and I will do it for you for the rest of your life if you will only trust in Me.”
Tears rolled down Serena’s cheeks, as she looked up at him through her blurry vision. The man carried an enormous burden on his back. It towered to the clouds in the vast blue sky—stones bursting out from the largest sack she’d ever seen. How had she not seen it before? He must carry the burdens of thousands of people, yet He still stood upright, smiling. Why, He must be the strongest man alive! She thought.
But she knew better. She knew that her dirty rescuer was much more than a man.
Serena hugged the man tightly, not caring that his filth spread to her cotton dress. The right path was worth such little discomforts, after all. It was worth the big discomforts too. It was worth everything she had.
Finally, Serena remembered the white stone that the man offered to her. She took it and rubbed the polished rock in her hand, stunned by its beauty. She squinted to read the message on it:
“Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.”
Serena looked up, but saw that the man had turned away and had begun traveling a narrow path. She hurried after Him.
From that day forward, Serena glided on the right path, following the dirty man who walked not too far ahead of her, with the enormous burden on His back. Sometimes she stumbled, but always the small white stone reminded her that there was One who carried her heaviest stones, and that someday she’d reach the tall, oak-wood door of home, never to be blamed of traveling a wrong path again.