Skipping Stones

By Diane Virginia

Nick stood at the lake where he had skipped stones as a boy, remembering how they would skim the water’s surface four or even five times before sinking. He chose an oval stone, thin in depth. He stroked its surface, running it between his fingers to discern any ragged edges. The skipping stone passed the test; it was smooth enough to easily glide upon the surface of the water. He placed it between his forefinger and his thumb.

“I’ve got this,” Nick said, stepping into the shallows. He launched his prize into the depths with the speed, angle, and pitch a professional baseball player could achieve. Nonetheless, the stone refused to skip, and although it reached a great distance, it immediately sank as if a thousand-pound weight was attached to it.

Nick fell to his knees. I’m a failure, he thought. He buried his face in his hands, the scent of silica wafting into his nose. To him, that sinking stone symbolized his life.  He thought about the ways he’d tried to succeed in ministry. He was a teacher at his church. He even led some of the committees. He wondered why then his disciplined study of the Word and his ministry works felt as shallow and as icy cold as the waves that wafted over his legs.  The cares of life were pressing upon him. He felt he was sinking. Deeper, and deeper, into a subterranean abyss.

“I’m done with You, God,” Nick said, struggling to rise. The vacuum of the sand inhibited his frame. He grabbed stones from the lake bed, and hurled them into the air.

“I’m not done with you,” an inner voice whispered, “I love you.”

Love. What was love anyway? Nick had to admit, he didn’t know. He knew he had not experienced the love of the Savior whom he taught about, but he kept that a secret—at times even fooling himself. The very concept of relationships, especially with an all-knowing God, seemed risky to him. He was skillful at keeping people at arm’s length, never allowing them to get close, fearing they’d not accept him if they knew his shortcomings. Now, he felt he’d lost his spiritual compass altogether. Why? He just couldn’t continue to pretend to serve a God he didn’t know. I’m quitting the ministry, Nick thought, I’ve hidden my identity from God anyway—that is—if He exists, so it won’t matter….

“I know you,” the voice beckoned, “and I still love you.”

Nick walked to his car, resisting the inner voice. I’m delusional, Nick thought. I can’t skip stones anymore, and now I’m hearing voices! Nick stepped up his pace to a trot.

“I AM Love,” he heard within his spirit. Nick recalled the passages he had taught: “God is love,”[1] the Bible says. He remembered his seminary notes; God is the personification of love. But, wasn’t love just a feeling?

“I’m beginning to wonder if You are there.”

“I AM.”

“I can’t hide from You, can I? Yea, yea, I know what Psalm 139 says because I’ve taught it. If I ascend to heaven, You are there. If I make my bed in hell, You are still there. You have hemmed me in, and You know me better than I know myself.”

Nick paced. The silence was beginning to get to him more than the inner voice he had heard.

“I’m sorry, God. I was mocking You and that breaks a commandment. But, that’s the problem; I can never be good enough to earn Your love!”

Nick felt a presence—loving, gentle, and comforting. He sighed deeply.

“Look, God, if You love me, show me who I am,” Nick rummaged in the glove compartment for his Bible. “I want to know You,” he muttered, “but I admit that I don’t.”

Nick decided to read about Nicodemus. “He’s got a great name,” he whispered, dabbing a tear that had unwittingly eked out. He read how Nicodemus, the master-teacher of Israel, fell short of his responsibilities because he treated his religious beliefs as head-knowledge and moral duty. “I relate,” Nick admitted.

The remedy, Jesus responded, was relationship with the Father through the Son: “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish but have everlasting life.”[2] Jesus spoke of a spiritual birth that must follow natural birth; “Ye must be born again.”[3]   Nick understood why Nicodemus questioned how this could happen. Although Nicodemus knew facts—lots of them—could he risk entering into a relationship? Nick felt the same way.

Nicodemus also knew Jesus’ introspection would reveal every flaw. Jesus encouraged him to believe that by coming out of the shadows and into the light of God’s glory, the Son of God would perfect any defect in him. Could Nicodemus embrace this concept? To acknowledge Jesus’ sacrificial love for him involved surrender, and trust. Nick knew Nicodemus had taken this step, so he read further.

Nick recalled that Nicodemus’ name meant, “Conqueror of the People.”[4]  As a Pharisee, and master teacher of Israel, and having ruling authority as a member of the Sanhedrin Council, he was careful to obey every doctrine and Jewish tradition. He demanded the same of the people.  Nicodemus was strong, and self-willed, but that changed after his initial visit to Jesus.

Nicodemus became a believer—an unpopular choice amongst his peers—choosing even to defend Jesus from the Sanhedrin Council when they sought to put Him to death. Nicodemus challenged them, saying, “Doth our law judge any man, before it hear him, and know what he doeth?”[5] Nick wondered if he was as closed-hearted as the Counsel to whom Nicodemus spoke, or if he was open to Jesus’ love as Nicodemus had been. Nick recalled one of his co-workers who had secretly come to him, offering to explain the salvation experience; but Nick had pretended he already knew the Lord.

Nick read further. Nicodemus’ allegiance strengthened. At first, he had come to Jesus at night. But eventually he was unashamed of his commitment to the Savior, even willing to risk his personal safety as well as his reputation. When Jesus died on the cross, it was Nicodemus who brought a hundred-pound weight of fragrant spices, myrrh, and aloes[6], and with the aid of Joseph of Arimathea, he wound these into linen strips around Jesus’ body in preparation for His burial.[7]  Not only did Nicodemus participate in this demonstration of devotion to the Savior, he offered his own new tomb which he had purchased at great cost, as a burial site for the Master.[8]

Nick noticed what was not written. The Synoptic Gospels[9] did not contain a single reference to this notorious teacher of Israel. Only the Gospel of John recorded Nicodemus’ story. Why? John, who once was known as “the son of thunder,” but became known as “the disciple whom Jesus loved,” wrote about what he knew best—that Jesus personifies love, mends broken hearts, and changes destinies. John wrote from the gut level about the God of love. Nicodemus was an example of a man who had been transformed by God’s love. Nick walked back to the lake, wondering if he his heart could change as Nicodemus’ and John’s had done.

“Father God,” Nick said, willingly resuming his kneeling position. “I’ve taught others that Jesus died on the cross and rose from the dead to give newness of life.  Now it’s my turn. Lord Jesus, I’m afraid, but I know I’m making the right decision. I can’t stay in this pit of despair, so I choose You. I’m not worthy of Your love, but I ask You to take me anyway. See me! And then, remake me.  I withhold nothing from You. You’re my only hope!”

Nick dropped his arms into the sand, allowing them to be pulled into the current. “I surrender… to… Love.”  Waves of God’s love washed over Nick’s spirit. He spoke again, “Jesus, it’s not enough for me to have You for myself; I ask You to make me Your witness.” A breeze touched Nick’s cold cheeks which were wet with tears. Nick embraced them as a gift, knowing Jesus was answering his prayer. “I am Yours….”

As the current consumed his limbs, Nick felt a jagged rock under the bank’s surface which pierced his hand. With each wave, he became more aware if this protrusion. He loosened it, pulled it to the surface, and examined its’ form.  Nick thought about throwing it as a symbol of his transformed life. Certainly it was no skipping stone—no—its’ edges were jagged, and it weighed far too much. Oh, no, it would not skip. Ever! Besides, he was kneeling with his hands in the water. This wasn’t the right position to skip a stone. Nonetheless, he lobbed it across the lake, as a sign of his surrender.

“Thank You, God for saving me!” he shouted. “Make me a skipping-stone, free in You!” To Nick’s amazement, the stone skipped! He laughed out loud.  “One, two, three-four…five, and skipping still? Nine, perhaps ten skips?”

Nick walked to his car, tuned the radio to a Christian station, and sang off-key. Nick was burden-free. Furthermore, he was confident he could serve God successfully now.  Why? He had mastered the art of skipping stones.

1 I John 4:8b, 16b NIV

[2] John 3:16

[3] John 3:7

[4] All the Names in the Bible, pg. 522

[5] John 7:51

[6] John 19:39

[7] John 19:40-41

[8] John 19:42

[9] Matthew, Mark, and Luke

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