Last week I went to an area of Spain that I really love: Lagunas de la Ruidera, a national park area out in the middle of farmland in central Spain. It’s a collection of tiny lakes that stretch out over several miles...and nothing else. There are scant hotels and restaurants, which look like they haven’t been updated since the 60’s. I actually love this area for that reason—it’s empty. Peaceful. Quiet.
For a few summers now I’ve gone there to disconnect for a few days. On the shores of a little lake with about 20 other people, I can enjoy the quiet shade and sunshine, with cold water and a cool breeze just steps away.
On my last day there I remembered to get a few rocks for my collection: I have some stones from most of my travels around Spain. It started because I found a lot of sea glass (old beer bottles, but sea glass sounds much more romantic) in my first trip out of Madrid in Santander. I gathered a lot because I found the green colors so pretty, and my collection grew over my next few trips to various areas of Spain. Sometimes I forget though (like when I was in Sevilla, or in Galicia last spring) so I wanted to be sure to get stones from the lake this week.
In the clear water, I went searching for some nice rocks, but I was disappointed to discover that all the rocks were ugly. They were sharp and misshapen, instead of rounded and polished by the water, as I expected. I kept looking because I was sure with so much water, there would have to be more attractive rocks SOMEWHERE. The shoreline and the shallows of the lake were nothing BUT rocks. But then it hit me; I realized why all the rocks were ugly.
When the Lord uses rocks to show me His work in my heart
There are no waves. There is no friction.
The lake is absolutely calm, and for all the water there is, nothing ever agitates the water to the point where the rocks are worn or polished.
I had a flash of spiritual insight, as so easily happens when I’m away from the distraction and dulling influence of my routine in Madrid. “As iron sharpens iron, so one person sharpens another” Proverbs 27:17 tells us. Friction, while not particularly enjoyable, does allow opportunity for the sharp edges and ugly bumps to get smoothed away.
While the point of the Bible is God’s revelation to man of Himself and His plan of salvation, much of the New Testament prepares us for life with one another, because friction in relationships is a given. Nearly every book of the New Testament addresses these issues, beginning with Jesus’ own teaching: Do for others what you want them to do for you: this is the meaning of the Law of Moses and of the teachings of the prophets. (Matthew 7:12)
Be tolerant with one another and forgive one another whenever any of you has a complaint against someone else. You must forgive one another just as the Lord has forgiven you. And to all these qualities add love, which binds all things together in perfect unity. (Colossians 3:13-14)
Get rid of all bitterness, passion, and anger. No more shouting or insults, no more hateful feelings of any sort. Instead, be kind and tender-hearted to one another, and forgive one another, as God has forgiven you through Christ. (Ephesians 4:31-32)
If someone has done you wrong, do not repay him with a wrong. Try to do what everyone considers to be good. Do everything possible on your part to live in peace with everybody. (Romans 12:17-18)
Beginning with our relationship with Christ, we receive the Holy Spirit. Through the process of sanctification, He begins to sharpen our hearts, to rub off the old nature, and bring to brilliance the nature of Christ in us. He smooths us out in a never-ending process. Like a rock in gallons of water in a placid lake, we can be completely surrounded by the Holy Spirit, but if we don’t allow Him to move in us, we remain in the same condition. Only with His movement in us will we begin to get smoother in the process of holiness.
The relationships with our brothers and sisters continues that process of sanding off the rough and ugly edges. Patience and forgiveness scrape and shape like sandpaper; we don’t like it, but it produces something beautiful in the end.
As I searched through the ugly rocks of Laguna Salvadora, I realized that I don’t want to be ugly and disfigured. I don’t want to be the same 5 years from now as I am today, or even the same next year. I want to allow the Lord and others to burnish and brighten what He’s begun in me, even if it takes friction and pressure to do it.