I was walking on the beach the other day and came across a pile of stones.
There were jagged, broken stones that looked like they had been beat up and cracked with a hammer. There were some that were sort of round and others that were kind of flat and others that really had no significant shape to them at all. The stones didn’t have much color to them either. They were black, grey, and brown – nothing too exciting.
In the midst of all of these every day, not so special stones that many people probably walk by every day never noticing them, there was one that caught my eye. Among them was a perfectly smooth, shiny stone – one that seemed to have gone through its time untouched by whatever forces I thought had beaten up and turned the other stones ordinary.
I reached down and picked up the shiny, colorful stone. It was cool and smooth and it felt nice. As I turned it over and over in my hand a few times looking at all of its sides, this nice looking stone started to tell me a story. It was the story of its journey through its life.
The little stone had started out like all the others in the pile: jagged and broken.
After being forged in the fire of the earth’s core, it spent nearly a million years as part of a mountain. One day, it was broken off the mountain by an earthquake and cast into the ocean where it sat alone for thousands of years being tossed and turned and smashed up against other rocks. It had seen storms – great, big, violent storms that rolled it around seemingly endlessly on the bottom of the ocean – storms that lasted so long they seemed like they would never end. Each storm and each wave chipped off a little bit more of the jagged edges of the stone.
One day, the stone found itself washed up on the shore. Just when things seemed like they might be getting a little better for the stone, the wind started blowing and the stone was pelted with sand. Every grain of sand seemed to take its toll, shaving off a little bit more of the outside of the stone. Then came torrential rains which washed away the loose parts of the stone. How much worse can it get of this poor little stone?
Just when the stone didn’t think it could take it any longer, the sun came out and shone upon it. And the stone looked at itself and realized that it wasn’t a broken jagged piece of cast-off rock any longer. It was something different now. It had changed. It was beautiful. The years of being beaten up, tossed around, blasted by the sand and rained upon had turned it into a shiny, colorful, smooth stone that everyone who walked by and saw it wanted to pick it up and hold it and look at it.
All of the other broken rocks that lay around it were jealous of this beautiful stone. Why was it so pretty and they were so ordinary and ugly in comparison? Why did everyone want to pick it and not them?
The little stone looked at the broken, jagged rocks and knew they didn’t understand.
We aren’t much different from the little stone. At times, life can throw us around and blast us until we don’t know how much more we can take. We can start to feel as if parts of ourselves are being worn away. But, like the little stone, the storms of our lives and the times that seem as if they may break us only work to refine us, polish us, and strengthen us.
We were never told that life would be easy. Just as storms come and go, we know we will have troubles and face trials and tribulations. In fact, John 16:33 says. “I have told you these things, so that in me you will have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.”
It is the storms that we face and how we react to them that will shape us and define our journey through life. We can choose to be angry and bitter about the cards we have been dealt and the challenges we face or we can accept those challenges and use them to help us become better, stronger people.
We are told to “consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that testing of your faith produces perseverance. Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.” (James 1:2 NIV)
What the little stone knew what the other rocks didn’t yet: its journey was ending while theirs were just beginning.
We, like the others rocks still have a lot of life to face, some of which we might never think we will survive, until we are shaped, molded, and polished the same way the little stone was.
“Blessed is the one who perseveres under trial,” James continues. “Because, having stood the test, that person will receive the crown of life that the Lord has promised to those who love him.” (James 1:12 NIV)
The little stone was thankful for every storm it went through because it wouldn’t have become what it was today without them.