June 1, 2016

Living Stones

Even when we feel ignored and abused, God can use us.

Richard Martin

For the past 11 years, the Emmanuel-Brinklow Seventh-day Adventist Church in Ashton, Maryland, has hosted The Living Legends Awards for Service to Humanity.

In February the Living Legends Foundation honored Calvin B. Rock, a former president of Oakwood University and former vice president of the General Conference; the Mid-Atlantic Innocence Project, a non-profit organization dedicated to correcting the incarceration of innocent people; and Van Brooks, founder of Safe Alternative Foundation for Education (SAFE), an after-school program in Baltimore that provides education and health activities for at-risk youth.

The following remarks were made at the conclusion of the evening’s presentations. —Editors

As I was growing up, the sanctuary choir sang a song that many of us are familiar with. I will not sing the lyrics, coming after all that has been sung tonight. But with as much eloquence as I can, I will recite them. They’re not difficult.

If You can use anything, Lord,
You can use me.

If You can use anything, Lord,
You can use me.

Take my hands, Lord, and my feet.

Touch my heart, Lord, speak through me.

If You can use anything, Lord,
You can use me.

What does it mean to live a life of usefulness? We have been privileged with seeing and hearing three examples. But a little look to your left, to your right, before you and behind, reveals more lives to be used among us.

Perhaps, hearing about these three, and seeing all they have done, we don’t feel that we have anything to offer. What little do I have to offer in the presence of so much that has already been given? While we collectively thank those whose lives and usefulness and legacies have been honored tonight, how sad it would be to hear about what can be done and still remain on the sidelines.

At some point, information must translate to transformation. Then transformation translates to participation. We all are now tasked and charged with presenting our lives to be used. Where? We don’t know. How? We are not sure. In what way? It’s yet to be seen. But all of us have lives that can be used.

Out in Nature

Allow me to paint a picture about how a life can be well-lived and well-used.

Cast your gaze into the azure-blue skies. See the aged clouds as they shift from east to west. You can feel and hear the circuitous winds. The grassy-green fields appeal to the eyes. The flowing of the river’s waters is nice to the ears. But look a little lower. Don’t stop at the sky and the clouds, for we all would like to live up there. Come a little lower, beneath the wind, beneath the grass. Stop right at the riverbed. There you will see not 10, not 20, not 50, not 70, but hundreds of stones: stones that all look the same. Stones that do nothing more than keep each other company. They’re just stones.

We don’t know how the stones arrived where they did. Some of them may have been thrown there by a lad walking along the path. But these stones all share certain commonalities. They’ve all been walked on. They’ve all been passed over. They’ve all experienced erosion. No one cares about the stone’s story. No one bothers to ask the stones how they arrived there. And if we know anything about the stone, the stone thinks, Well, I guess my life will be used just to take up space by the riverbed. I’m only going to erode for the rest of my life.

Overlooked and Ignored

I see before me stones scattered by the riverbed. Perhaps you, too, have been walked on, passed by, and in your mind you think, My only life’s purpose is just to take up space by the riverbed. People come to fish in the river. People look at the birds flying through the sky. But no one will ever pay attention to me. I’m only going to erode for the rest of my life.

But one of these riverbed stones had a destiny. And everything it had been through—walked on and eroded—served to prepare it for its future destiny. Some stones get hit and lie paralyzed on the ground. Other stones spend years in prison. Others receive the cruelties of prejudice and discrimination. I don’t know your stone’s story. But every stone has a story. And every stone is being prepared for a future destiny.

What this stone didn’t know was that a shepherd boy was practicing with a pebble; someone was developing a skill. And one day that shepherd’s skill would meet the stone.

Prepared in Community

But the stone would not be collected by itself; four other stones were being prepared. Stones are always prepared in community. This is why no stone is an island unto himself or herself. The jagged edges of communal stones smooth us out. We need the stones on our right and the stones on our left. And the stones on our left and our right need us. For how will we be smoothed out without one another?

David picks up stone one, stone two, stone three, stone four, and stone five. Now they’re in his pouch, all keeping each other company. And that one stone that thought its life’s purpose was just to take up space did not know that all the erosion and all the feet were simply making it smooth. Because leather slings only use smooth stones.

Sometimes we have to have the rough edges smoothed over through trials we don’t deserve. It’s all preparing us for a future use. The stone would be used only once, not day after day, not for years. It had one purpose: to sit there until it was smooth enough to take flight.

So now the stone has been smoothed. Now it sits in the skillful hands of one who knows where to send it. And that stone that didn’t think it was worth anything, I see it cut through the wind; its destination is in sight. Now that stone knows: This is why I was made. I wasn’t made to sit and take up space by a riverbed; I was made to bring down giants.

My fellow stones, how long will the giants in our land stand? One day when we’re smooth enough, a skillful hand will pick us up and send us flying through the sky. What a day that will be when the giants of our time begin to fall!

Richard Martin is an associate pastor at Emmanuel-Brinklow Seventh-day Adventist Church in Ashton, Maryland.