We could go out and look at the leaves—or—you could stay there all afternoon and be unhappy.
Maybe it was the fact that we had just turned on the heat for the first time this fall. It could have been. The chill was creeping in from outside.
I’m not fond of the cold. Oh. I may have mentioned that before. I probably have.
I had sat, huddled under a blanket, as I watched the Lovely Lady leave to go grocery shopping that morning. I didn’t offer to accompany her. When she arrived back home an hour later I hadn’t moved.
She knows me well. A few well-placed inquiries, with a hint of concern, led me to the conclusion that I probably should take a drive with her through the countryside.
As I suspected, it was still chilly outside, but the sun was shining brightly. It was, as she had averred, a beautiful day. In the car.
Still. . .
I thought, as we drove out of town on the busy highway, that it didn’t seem the right way to experience God’s creation. In a car along with hundreds of other drivers speeding down the tarmac, the experience left much to be desired.
Then, I remembered the old bridge. The turnoff was only a couple of miles on up the road. She was all for it, even though she hadn’t worn her hiking shoes. We stopped.
There are some who would have you believe the world is a horrible cesspool of a place to live in, God’s creation marred beyond recognition by sin and degradation. They are partly right, but only partly.
On that brilliant afternoon, all I knew was I agreed with the Creator as He viewed the work of His hands in the beginning. (Genesis 1:31)
It was good. It was very good.
We tramped through the brambles and brushed beside the reddening poison ivy, laughing at the annoyance of thin branches that smacked us in our faces as we passed. The sun on our backs felt wonderful and the scent of autumn woods refreshed our spirits as we breathed deep.
We had visited the old steel bridge only once before, but the way was clear and we didn’t mind the walk. As we approached the old structure, it was reassuring to see that it hadn’t altered—an old friend almost, standing firm in spite of change and shifting conditions all around.
But, somehow the river drew us today. We paid our respects to the old bridge and headed to the rock-covered landing up the waterway a few hundred feet.
Glancing down as we neared the water’s edge, I noticed a number of flat stones, worn smooth by years of tumbling against others in the current of the mighty river.
They were there for only one reason, of course. Anyone who has spent any time at all at the river’s edge can tell you what that reason is.
I picked one up and, holding it with the flat side parallel to the water’s surface, spun it toward the other side of the river almost like a frisbee. Just the slightest lift of the leading edge of the flat rock as it left my hand guaranteed that aerodynamics would do the rest.
One stone wasn’t enough. Others followed the first. They weren’t all perfect attempts. On a couple, I didn’t get the front edge up and they quickly sliced into the water, sinking immediately with barely a plop.
Inadvertently, I picked up one or two rocks which weren’t flat. For some reason, I didn’t just drop them to the strand on which we stood, but tossed them into the water. They disappeared with a solid plunk, sinking down to the bottom to be tumbled along on their journey. Perhaps, in another century or two, when they have worn flat, some other old man, or perhaps even a young one, will feel the joy of skipping one of those very rocks across the surface of the same river. Perhaps.
The Lovely Lady took a photo or two of the result of my rock-skipping. I’ve posted one above. It’s a beautiful thing, showing the old bridge, along with the pretty autumn colors.
But the part that catches my eye, again and again, is the series of circular ripples on the surface of the water.
In my memory, I rub my fingers across the smooth stone that made all those ripples. Thin and without sharp edges, it is perfect for slipping across the surface, leaving evidence of its passage, but slowing hardly at all as it spins quickly on to its next place of impact.
I remember, with amusement, the other stones I tossed into the water. They too made ripples. One ring. Plunk.
Do you know what makes some stones suitable for skipping across great expanses of water? They have tumbled and scraped and banged, for ages, against other stones going through the same process.
If I were to carry a huge stone, as big as my head, to the riverside and drop it in, there would be a tremendous splash, but it wouldn’t have as much impact, overall, as one of those small flat stones that spun out of my hand on that recent autumn day.
Oh, it would make an impression, the initial result being a single ring which would multiply and repeat itself into the distance. But, it would still be only one circle, limited in its reach.
I want to shift the world around me. Not in a spectacular way, but enough so that when I’m gone, folks will remember the impact. Not me, but the result.
There are days when I feel old and worn. I’m finally realizing that those days—the ones when I feel especially useless and weak—may be the days when I am finally ready to go spinning across the water. In the hands of the Master Stone-Skipper, the ripples might be felt forever.
The woman who poured expensive perfume on Jesus’ feet was such a person. The impact of her act is still being felt today, as He promised it would be. (Matthew 26:13)
You know—those plain, smooth stones were completely unimpressive as we walked over them on that riverbank. But, in the right hands, they had a far-reaching effect.
We, who are being worn smooth by life and its hardships may be given the same opportunity one day.
I wonder if today will be the day.
I’d like to make a few more ripples.
Success is more dangerous than failure; the ripples break over a wider coastline.
(Graham Greene ~ British novelist ~ 1904-1991)
Then Christ will make his home in your hearts as you trust in him. Your roots will grow down into God’s love and keep you strong. And may you have the power to understand, as all God’s people should, how wide, how long, how high, and how deep his love is.
(Ephesians 3:17,18 ~ NLT)
© Paul Phillips. He’s Taken Leave. 2016. All Rights Reserved.