I feel sorry for my parents, but not for a reason you might expect. There is much to be said for the behavior of any child and the great patience so many parents demonstrate. I tested my parents in ways only they, and the Lord, truly know. But today I feel sorry for my parents because I liked rocks.
Have you ever been in a gift shop and noticed the bin full of polished rocks? Bright colors and patterns, textures and shapes, these bins are filled quartz, agate, pyrite, turquoise, and more. We would often travel with my father to medical conferences and meetings across the U.S. Between sessions, we would go to every touristy spot we could squeeze into the trip, and in nearly every gift shop we would find these bins of rocks. The bins are also usually placed on one of the lowest tables in the store. I suspect there are few adults who frequent the rock bins. Even those who may collect rocks would surely find them elsewhere. But I loved those bins.
I was no collector. In fact, I could not have cared less for most of the rocks in each bin. I was only looking for one rock. It was smooth and small, grey and reflective, with a dulled chrome shine. Hematite. I don’t know why I was so fascinated with this particular rock, but at every bin I would grab a velvet bag from the stack beside the bin and begin to dig. By the time my parents had caught up, I had a bag full of hematite and the cheesiest grin I could muster. “Please?” I have no clue how many times I asked for a bag of those rocks. I have no clue how many times my parents persuaded me to opt instead for the velcro canvas wallet or the neon graphic tee. But I know I wanted rocks.
It is interesting to think on the place of rocks in Scripture. A few verses may even jump into your mind when you turn to think about it. Jesus tells us if we do not worship, they will take our place (Luke 19:40). Moses, on two occasions, strikes one to give water to Israel in the wilderness (Exodus 17:6; 20:11). They are used to make monuments (Joshua 7:26), and as a means of execution (Acts 7:58).
The rock, like any tool, or life, can serve great purposes, wicked purposes, or, like so many of the rocks I put in a velvet bag only to be dumped back into the bin, serve no real purpose at all. To be sure the rock is a wonder and testimony of God’s creativity and power, but there was greater use in the stone that struck Goliath compared with the other four in his pouch.
I wonder how many people would resemble the four in the pouch, wanting to be used for a great work, but seemingly sidelined when the task comes, or worse, never to identify any task at all. How many feel like polished stones, sitting in a gift shop, waiting to be a part of something more?
Peter refers to followers of Christ as “living stones” in 1 Peter 2:5, a thought echoed by Paul in Ephesians 2:20-22, where he explains that we are “built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Christ Jesus Himself being the corner stone, in whom the whole building, being fitted together, is growing into a holy temple in the Lord, in whom you also are being built together into a dwelling of God in the Spirit.”
Christ desires to use us for a distinct purpose: to build his church. Each believer is another stone in the structure, set to Christ, built on the foundation of those who have labored before us, and fitted together with the saints with whom we are privileged to walk in fellowship.
As a church planter, I have often heard people profess hurt done by the church or of some level of independence they see as good and, at times, necessary. They don’t need the church to be a Christian. Though I know that the harm committed was not done in keeping with Christ, most often I respond with consolation and love. For here lies a loose stone.
A stone set in the structure of a building is not easily kicked. It is not picked up and tossed this way or that. A stone set and fitted tightly together with other stones, in line with its corner stone is set secure. Rain may still fall upon that stone and wind may press against it, but it is not easily moved. The loose stone cannot claim such securities.
I reflect on my time spent in gift shops with humor, reminded now of my simple infatuation each time I pass a bin I would have gleefully ran to only twenty years ago. But there is also a sadness. There are stones, beautiful and unique, that will serve little lasting purpose. What a greater sadness it is to consider those made in the image of God who sit in the bin of their circumstances or reject a purpose they have been invited to join.
On the back wall of our sanctuary we prominently display the words of our mission as a church, “Growing Together as One Community in Christ.” I pray that these words adequately describe the structure we have committed to build. I pray that we are in line with Christ. I pray that others will join the work with us. I pray that the stone that is my own life finds greater use than sitting in a bin.