From Rock Picking to Boundary Setting

By Jo A. Henry, M.A., MFTI, CADC II, IMF Registered Intern #73203

Supervised by Donald W. Welch, Ph.D., LMFT, License #LMFT 50129


The folks living in and around St. Cloud, Minnesota were hard working farmers. When my family lived near St. Cloud we were introduced to an unusual local custom; “rock picking”.

During the long harsh Minnesota winter months the earth was hard and hidden from sight. Although the earth was still hidden at the beginning of spring, there was activity going on just below the snow and ice covered soil. The sun moved into a closer orbit warming the barren landscape, melting the snow into the hard earth beneath, softening the soil, and causing unseen phenomena. Changing the landscape from winter snow, the earth pushed its boulders of all sizes and shapes to the surface.

Enlisting the help of kids released for a week from school, kids and adults walked together hoisting boulder after boulder onto the back of flatbed trucks. Unsure if skipping school was worth all this effort, the kids still helped every year, providing the adults invaluable help. Continuing this back breaking chore, the boulders were removed growing into huge piles so the crops could be planted. The huge piles of rocks were taken to the peripheries of each farm forming rock wall boundaries. Driving through the countryside, the sight of rocks stood out as distinct boundaries between the green knee-high corn stalks.

What can we learn from the farmer and the rock?

Harsh experiences in our lives push our huge boulder sized problems through the soil of our hearts to the surface disturbing and preventing growth and change of seeds planted by God. Removing these boulders alone cannot always be done. We may need “rock picking” help from others. Working together lifting rocks out of the soil and piling them into boundaries protects and provides defense from danger and difficulty.

How can we apply lessons from the boulders to boundaries?

  • Recognize the nature of hidden sins. They may be hidden for a season, but they will eventually emerge, chocking our growth and change.
  • Admit our need for help. We are stronger together than alone. As we confess our sins and our needs to one another the weight of the burden is lightened.
  • God doesn’t waste anything, He uses all our experiences. Building boundaries out of the boulders strengthen our resolve to eliminate that sin from our lives.