Updated: Oct 28, 2020
Books have always been one of my favorite ways to escape from reality. Currently, I’m listening to the author read Leave Only Footprints, a book about his year spent visiting every national park in the United States.
On his visit to Petrified Forest National Park in Arizona, he learns about the “conscience pile” - a mound of rocks that were illegally removed by visitors and later returned (usually along with a letter of apology from the thief). Because nobody can be sure exactly where in the park the returned rocks initially came from, they are kept in a separate area, resulting in the pile.
I was fascinated to hear about this. It made me think about repentance and forgiveness. The conscience pile at Petrified Forest NP is a physical reminder of how often humans disregard the rules and give in to temptation. But it’s also a pile of repentance. The thieves regret what they did and tried to make amends by returning the pilfered stones.
It made me think…what if there was a stone in a pile for each time we’ve needed to repent and be forgiven? I can only speak for myself, but it would probably be quite an impressive pile - a monument to all the times I’ve done the wrong thing. Each shortcoming memorialized, every misstep remembered.
Of course, that’s not the whole story of sin and repentance! The Bible is pretty clear on this - God’s response to our repentance is forgiveness. We have redemption through the blood of Jesus, forgiveness by God’s grace! That sin pile in our lives is not a reminder of our failure; in actuality, it is our forgiveness pile - a reminder of God’s grace at work in our lives. Just as Joshua set up twelve stones after the Israelites crossed the Jordan river into the promised land as a reminder of God’s faithfulness, we can look at our personal ‘conscience piles’ as reminders of God’s goodness and grace in our lives. Each misstep forgiven, every sin wiped away by our loving father.