The lesson of a rock
We were in the middle of God’s country and I was lingering near a rock. No, it wasn’t one of those rustic, massive boulders lining the magnificent foothills dotting Lake Tahoe, where we were vacationing with friends last fall. Nor was it near a towering pine or on the lakeside beach where gentle waves deposited wet kisses along the shoreline.
No, I was in a souvenir shop in nearby Virginia City and I was gazing at a carefully shaped and polished rock. There was something compelling about the stone specimen, a polychrome jasper in the shape of a heart. Larger than my hand, the rock’s rust and pink and blue veins reminded me of a world map, resplendent with land and sea. It was as though I had the whole world in my hands.
I’m not a collector of rocks, but I’ve always appreciated their beauty, especially after they’ve been cleaned up and polished. I marvel at how much you can see when the centuries have been elbowed away.
So the jasper rock from Madagascar was speaking to me. I showed it to Eugene and our friends, who were scouting out their own stone treasures. I thought about shelling out the $28 and bringing it home, but the budget was tight and we had just shed our household of six carloads of stuff during our recent move. I couldn’t justify the purchase so I snapped a photo of it and we continued on to enjoy a raging thunderstorm outside.
Several days after we returned home, our friends presented me with a non-descript brown box. Inside was the heart-shaped stone. They had covertly slipped back into the store to purchase it. By the world’s standards, it wasn’t a precious gem like diamonds or rubies, but it was to me.
Every day, as I admire the rock as it rests on a shelf in our living room, I am reminded of the precious nature of community and the gifts we bestow on one another: love, companionship, wisdom, comfort, perspective, belonging, strength, mooring, and yes, from time to time, even material trinkets. It’s what God intended human relationships to be.
The stone also reminds me of the mystery of God’s creation. In rock shops across the globe, there are millions and millions of specimens, each unique. All with different colors, shapes and densities.
In their natural state, rocks are muted versions of what they can become under the hand of a master lapidarist. The image is strikingly similar to that of the potter and the clay, which is mentioned several times in the Bible, including this one from Isaiah 64:8: But now, O LORD, You are our Father, We are the clay, and You our potter; And all of us are the work of Your hand.
Thanks to the deft hands of trained experts in stone working, plain rocks can be sliced in half to reveal stunning crystals and caves. They can be polished to reveal snaking veins. They can be cut in shapes to commemorate marriage and birthdays. Each with different purposes: bookends, jewelry, salt mills, coasters, trivets, animals … The list is exhaustive.
God created His people the same way, too, each with their own gifts, talents and quirks! How has God shaped you? How are you using your gifts to benefit your church community, or the broader community we call neighborhoods and workplaces? What special gift can you bestow on another? A card or letter, a hug or a smile, shopping for someone who is house bound, making soup for someone who is sick, thanking a janitor for keeping your space clean? Gifting a treasured trinket? The list, afterall, is exhaustive.