Mary had been married for six years when she and her husband Bill first came to see me for counseling. Bill seemed like a nice enough fellow, but he was getting fed up with the angry outbursts Mary unleashed on him. Their marriage was unraveling.
As a counselor, I knew the "presenting problem" that folks come to me with is usually not the real problem. For Mary, it didn't take long to discover that her issue wasn't her marriage. God was just using that to stir things up in her life. The real issue was that Mary had used stones of hurt, resentment, and bitterness to build an altar to her anger.
Setting Up the Stones
In the Old Testament, stones were often used as symbols. God told the Israelites to erect altars of remembrance to acknowledge his mighty and miraculous acts and to remind future generations of his faithfulness (such as in Joshua 4). Building memorials is a great idea—as long as we're building them to remember the right things. The problem is that when we've been hurt, it's easy to collect stones and erect monuments to the wrong thing: our anger. That's what Mary was doing. In fact, Mary had been carrying around her stones of disappointment, hurt, and rejection long before she met her husband.
Abandoned by her alcoholic father when she was only 16, Mary began to believe that she wasn't good enough, she couldn't trust others to be there for her, and she would eventually be abandoned because of her flaws. These beliefs served as the brick and mortar that set her stones firmly in place, creating an altar to her anger that was like a landmine of explosives, just waiting for something to trigger it.1