A Pebble in Your Shoe

by Beverly Hutchinson McNeff

The other day I had a little pebble in my shoe. I went out for a walk with my husband and son, and everything was fine at the beginning, but all of a sudden, there it was! How did that pebble get in there? It must have been in there all the time, but it took me a while to feel it. Of course, you know what happened next. I didn’t want to make everyone stop while I took off my tennis shoe, so I wiggled my foot around to simply shake the pebble into a place I couldn’t feel it anymore. That worked for a moment; then it was back. So, I shook my foot around again. All the time, I was keeping step with my walking buddies. Well, that didn’t really work, either.

Finally, yes, finally, I had to stop. It was just too annoying to avoid any longer. It really didn’t hurt. I wasn’t in pain (well, not too much pain). I was just annoyed. It had to come out! I was done with my contortions of foot wiggling and waggling. I had to stop, take off my shoe, shake it out, and put it back on. Everyone had to stop and wait, but nobody seemed to mind. My husband wanted me to be comfortable so we could enjoy our walk, and my son appreciated the stop so he could take pictures of rare views of the beautiful snowcapped mountains in southern California to post. The pebble became part of the walk; not an annoyance, but instead a good lesson.

The “Pebbles” of life

We all have those “pebbles” in our lives. We don’t know where they come from, but suddenly, they appear. A lot of times, they seem like “no big deal.” They are just enough to slightly irritate us, so we put up with them. We wiggle and waggle around in our minds until we seem to put those problems at rest, but just like a persistent pebble, they seem to pop up again and again. Not always in the same place, but in this relationship or in that job situation. That “pebble” keeps popping up because we haven’t taken the time to deal with it. After all, we think it’s just a little problem. It’s a little annoyance, a little fear, a little worry, a little anger, so there’s no need to waste all that time on it. There are “bigger fish to fry”! And yet, as A Course in Miracles counsels, “a slight twinge of annoyance is nothing but a veil drawn over intense fury.” (W-21.2:5) If we are angry, even just a little, we are not at peace. And the Course reminds us,

“When you are not at peace it can only be because you do not believe you are in Him [God].” (T-8.IV.1:3)

Therefore, the awareness of who we are depends on us dealing with those “pebbles.” We cannot afford to ignore them if we ever hope to heal.

Dealing with the “Pebbles”

So, we need to stop and deal with our pebbles. Why don’t we? Well, we don’t want to “waste” time. We have so much to do, right? We have jobs to do, relationships to deal with, vacations to plan, achievements to accomplish, groceries to buy, laundry to do, children to raise, elderly parents to care for, and health challenges to tackle – oh, we have a lot of reasons to avoid those little “pebbles.” The fact is, healing our lives doesn’t take time; it takes willingness. It doesn’t take a lot of time to turn to God. The Course tells us that every moment we spend with God, He returns to us in thousands of years of time-saving. Aren’t we worth the moments of time that it may take? What else do we really have to do?

I remember when my son was a baby, I worked out of our home so I could be there to meet his needs. My work life never stopped, and there were deadlines to meet, but everything stopped when his diaper needed to be changed. He needed to be taken care of right NOW! There is no metaphor here; it is straightforward. I had to stop and meet his needs. Very basic and yet very profound.

When we are in the middle of our messes and our “pebbles” are annoying us, we must stop and meet our needs and turn to God. I remember using the activity of changing my son’s diaper as a way to bring me into the moment – I can hear you chuckling, but it taught me that I need to be here right now. And frankly, when you are changing a squirming baby’s diaper, you have to be right in the moment, or you will have a mess – you can make up your own metaphor here!

If we try to deal with our “pebbles” alone, we will just move them around. But when we ask for God’s Help, He systematically zeroes in on the “pebble,” gives us clear insight into it, and then provides the Help to allow it to be removed. He gives us a vision to gently see the “pebble” for what it is: a mistake that His gentle love can correct. He doesn’t condemn us for having the “pebble” nor criticize us for holding on to the “pebble,” He simply helps us to look at it, and in His loving vision, He helps us see no value in keeping it.

Those “pebbles” of life need to be taken care of. If you don’t deal with the pebble in your shoe, it can cause an even bigger problem. Let’s just deal with them now, but not alone. Here’s a prescription from the Course found in lesson 254 to stop the ego’s screams and listen to God.

“Today we let no ego thoughts direct our words or actions. When such thoughts occur, we quietly step back and look at them, and then we let them go. We do not want what they would bring with them. And so we do not choose to keep them. They are silent now. And in the stillness, hallowed by His Love, God speaks to us and tells us of our will, as we have chosen to remember Him.” (W-254.2)

When those “pebbles” occur, we are asked to stop and not get frantic and involved, which is what our egos would like. Simply stop for just a moment and quietly step back and look at the “pebble.” Don’t beat yourself up for having the “pebble,” and don’t get swept away by the emotion of the “pebble.” Step back from it quietly and ask for help in letting it go. We don’t want the pain and sorrow it brings, so “we do not choose to keep them.” With the love and help of God’s unfailing Answer, we will release them.

Now don’t feel bad if you can’t do the prescription for peace all at once. We are developing a spiritual muscle, and like the development of a physical muscle, it takes practice. But don’t make excuses for not trying. Make the effort to put this into practice; every attempt really does make a difference.

You aren’t slowing anyone down

Sometimes we feel like a spiritual mess because we have so many “pebbles” to deal with. Our egos want us to look at our lives that way because if we feel hopeless and overwhelmed, we will simply give up, thinking it’s too much work. We can’t keep up. Everyone should go on without us. Oh, come on, do you really think your problems are so different from anyone else’s problems? You may have a different form for your problems, but each form has the same content: the thought that we could be separate from our Source, from God, from love, and thereby each other. We are not separate. We are here for one purpose: to help each other and remember we are each other. The Course reminds us of our purpose in this beautiful prayer I have shared many times, but always bears repeating:

“I am here only to be truly helpful.
I am here to represent Him Who sent me.
I do not have to worry about what to say or what to do,
because He Who sent me will direct me.
I am content to be wherever He wishes,
knowing He goes there with me.
I will be healed as I let Him teach me to heal.” (T-2.V-A.18)

When I needed to stop to take the pebble out of my shoe, my husband didn’t condemn me or shake his head. He’d been there before and knew how irritating a pebble could be. My son didn’t roll his eyes because we stopped our walk; he found joy in joining with nature and wanting to share that beauty. No one will think less of you if you reach out for help and support. Actually, you will be helping others to fulfill their purpose. After all, we are all here only to be truly helpful to one another. Dealing with the “pebbles” of your life is really a gift to all of us. Your healing is the world’s healing. “I will be healed as I let Him teach me to heal.”

So, as I learned, the “pebbles” of life can become part of our walk home to God. They remind us to turn to Him, they remind us to be kind to ourselves and each other, and they remind us that we truly are each other. Someday the “pebbles” of life will disappear, not because we will deny them, but because they will no longer have value in our lives. We will have looked at the “pebbles” while holding God’s Hand, and we will simply let them go. This insightful passage seems to sum it all up:

“The distractions of the ego may seem to interfere with your learning, but the ego has no power to distract you unless you give it the power to do so. The ego’s voice is an hallucination. You cannot expect it to say ‘I am not real.’ Yet you are not asked to dispel your hallucinations alone. You are merely asked to evaluate them in terms of their results to you. If you do not want them on the basis of loss of peace, they will be removed from your mind for you.” (T-8.I.2)

Enjoy your walk, pebbles and all!

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