Monday, February 3, 2014

Holy Pebbles

They were just little stones, pebbles really. They had been kicked along the path multiple times, rolling for a short distance, then falling into the dirt. Most people took no notice of them, unless one happened to lodge itself into a shoe or sandal. Once in a while, a small boy or two would pick up one and toss it high into the air, or skip it into the nearby stream. Just pebbles, that's all.

One day, though, those pebbles took on an unexpected and important role. A little boy, a shepherd boy, picked a few up, felt their weight in his hand, then slipped them into his pocket. Whistling, he went off to face a giant, a Philistine who had killed many people. When the boy got to where the giant stood, bellowing threats to the Israeli army, the boy fixed his carefully chosen pebbles into his slingshot, took expert aim, and fired at the giant's head.

The rest is history. The Israeli headlines, had there been any at the time, would have declared "Pebbles Pummel Philistine." The lowly pebbles had a brief moment of fame, then returned to the rubble. But if pebbles had the ability to think, they would have known that they had been used as servants of God.

Did you ever feel like a pebble, too small and lowly to be of any use to anyone? In the last act of "Camelot", King Arthur declares that we are all just specks of dust, soon forgotten, but that some of the specks "do sparkle." For those moments they sailed from David's little sling to the head of the Philistine giant, those pebbles sparkled! In Psalm 147:17, the grown up and now King David says, "He hurls down his hail like pebbles. Who can withstand his icy blast?" (NIV). Enough pebbles can cause a lot of damage!

1985.52.997They can also be used for less war-like causes. At St. Adrian's Well in France, pebbles taken from the bottom of the well are believed to ward off diseases. They serve as relics to the faithful. And I myself once devoted an entire blog to a stone I had found on my mother's grave.

Aesop tells the fable of a crow who, near death from thirst, came upon a jug with a small amount of water on the bottom. But the neck of the jug was too long and the crow's beak could not reach the water. Thinking hard, the crow dropped a pebble into the jug and saw the water rise a tiny, tiny bit. Resolved, he dropped another pebble. Then another. I can only imagine the patience of the crow as pebble after pebble was dropped. At last, the water had risen enough that he could drink and be refreshed.

We pebbles are more powerful when we band together. On our own, we may only have a tiny amount of impact on the world. When we join forces, we can kill giants and rain down on our enemies and find a cure for cancer. None of us is too small or insignificant.

One of my favorite poems is Dylan Thomas' "Fernhill." As the poem spins out Thomas' memories of his grandparents' farm at Swansea, a particularly lovely line appeals to me: "And the Sabbath rang slowy in the pebbles of the holy streams." Ah, to be a holy pebble, floating in the stream, waiting to be picked up and used by God!

You never know when just such a pebble as you will be needed.

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