18th June 2020
For as long as I can remember I have collected interesting pebbles and stones.
I lived on the Isle of Sheppey as a child and had ready access to the beach
where there was no shortage of pebbles.
I am fascinated with them.
Whenever and wherever I go on holiday I come back with a collection.
My favourite is a large flat-ish round stone which I brought back from Lindisfarne.
It's an ideal size to go in front of the entrance of the tomb in my Easter garden at church.
I really missed doing that this year. For the rest of the year it resides by my fireplace.
I also used them as a meditation aid when working with the prisoners,
in our weekly sessions, in the Chaplaincy.
I would put a selection on a table and ask the men to chose one.
Then I would ask why they had chosen that particular pebble.
One day I received the answer, 'I think It's a bit like me,
most of it is almost clear but there's a dark streak running through it.' - very perceptive!
That would probably apply to most of us.
Walking along a beach, studying the pebbles one can see such a vast difference,
some with very rough sharp edges,
others worn quite smooth by the action of the sea and sand over the years,
and others are at various stages of erosion.
Picking up a smooth pebble, rolling it around in my hand,
admiring its beauty,
I cannot help but wonder what story it would tell if it could talk.
Where did it originate?
How long had it spent buffeted by the waves and weather
before ending up on that particular beach?
It made me think about our own lives.
We too have spent years being buffeted by the storms of life;
feeling overwhelmed, ground down by the gritty sands of living.
Perhaps wishing that the pain,
frustration and suffering would disappear.
When we are drowning in the dark waters,
battered against the rocks it seems unmanageable to see the light of a safe haven.
But God is in our struggles with us and uses them to refine us.
3 we rejoice in our sufferings,
knowing that suffering produces endurance,
4 and endurance produces character,
and character produces hope,
5 and hope does not disappoint us,
because God's love has been poured into our hearts
through the Holy Spirit which has been given to us. Romans 5:3-5
None of our suffering is wasted in God's eyes.
Circumstances may grind us down but God is using them to strengthen our character
and dependence on him.
Like the pebbles on the beach which the water and sand have acted on, polishing over the years,
to remove the rough surfaces and reveal the smooth beauty beneath,
so God is working on us to bring us to fullness of life in him.
As Paul puts it,
28 And we know that all things work together for good
to those who love God,
to those who are the called according to His purpose. Roman 8:28
"in this world, you will have trouble,
but take heart, I have overcome the world." (John 16:33)
Let us be thankful that Jesus has overcome this world
and he does use our painful experiences to make us into better people
and able to empathise with others in their troubles.
May we continue to put our trust in him who went through the ultimate suffering
and triumphed and not be overwhelmed
as we struggle through the process of refinement and weather the storms of life.