On our way back from Topsail Island today after a wonderful time on Spring Break. Packed away, we have a bag full of smooth stones that we picked up on the beach. There was something about them that drew in both my wife and me this week – we just kept picking up more and more of them. In fact yesterday, we collected probably about 100 of them. As we read Curtice’s devotion this morning about going through a really difficult period in one of her pregnancies, my wife and I got talking about what difficulties in life bring to us. We talked about those stones and how none of them started out as the smooth, rounded stones that we were collecting. They only became that after a long period of being tossed around in the ocean and in the waves, being smoothed out by the salt in the water and the other objects in the ocean. As they were tossed up on the sandy beaches and pulled out again, they continued to be refined and refined until they got to the place where one of us picked it up and put it in the bucket to take home.
This is so how life often is for us – the difficulties and challenges of life refine us and shape us. God doesn’t force those times into our lives but instead gives us opportunities to grow through them. While we wouldn’t choose for those times to happen, we can open ourselves up to how God will work in and on us through those times. And as we go through them, we can see the ways that rough edges become smooth, sharp corners become rounded sides, and something even more remarkable. Many of the stones we picked up had been refined so much that light could shine through them – when we held them up to the early morning sun, you could see the colors and the light illuminating them.
Wisdom writers like Richard Rohr and Henri Nouwen have shared of how the more we open ourselves up through these times of life (Rohr called it the crucible between the first and second halves of life and Nouwen wrote of this as the Wounded Healer), the more people can see who we we really are – there’s a transparency and a healthy vulnerability that comes in this. Brene Brown, more recently, has written of this in her books on vulnerability. And not only do people see us more clearly but all are able to see God more clearly through us – just like seeing through the stone in this picture, we can not only see more of what the stone is but we can see the light that illuminates it as well.