In a cemetery in New England, I watched a woman take a few small, smooth stones from her coat pocket and carefully position them atop a gravestone. That was the first time I saw one of those rock-balancing creations. Now, I notice them many places. In an isolated or otherwise undisturbed place with no one else in sight, we come upon an intriguing stack of stones. Traveling the coast of Maine recently with friends, we left a few of our own:
(Note that God’s rock creations were much more amazing than ours.)
For centuries, cairns have been built for many reasons: marking trails, ceremonial traditions, or meditative moments. The Israelites piled up stone memorials to remember what God had done at various points in their journey to the Promised Land. Many we see today are simply a way of saying, “I was here.”
But these rock piles, whether humble or fantastic, have me thinking about how we leave something of ourselves in every life through which we walk.
This is certainly not a new idea; it’s just a reminder for today.
You’ve heard of the “leave no trace” ethic for outdoor environments? There is no such thing as “leave no trace” living. We touch every life through which we walk. As we go through each day–no matter how hum-drum, routine, or filled with drama–we build little rock piles that testify to our presence and touch in others’ lives.
We are children of God, and our lives belong to Him. What do the cairns we leave behind us say about the One we serve? Do they mark the trail to the One who gave us a new life? Do they proclaim, “God has been at work here; this is His handiwork”?
“In the same way, let your good deeds shine out for all to see, so that everyone will praise your heavenly Father.” Matthew 5:16
“This is to my Father’s glory, that you bear much fruit, showing yourselves to be my disciples.” John 15:8.
Think about the fruits of the Spirit. How many of those fruits involve relationships and our interaction with others? Everyone single one of them, I think!
Even things we might think are unimportant and inconsequential reflect who we are and whose we are. To switch to a different metaphor, Jesus said we’re to be the salt of the earth. (I find it interesting that even those who have no knowledge of Jesus’ teaching use this phrase and recognize its meaning.) Ever think about it that salt is made up of tiny, tiny particles? And just a few of those crystals can change the flavor of food, add length of life to something preserved, or create a chemical reaction much bigger than the few grains themselves.
We do the same. We will add some kind of flavor to the life of everyone we meet today. We’ve all had it happen—a small gesture or word from someone else changes our day. Whether we want to or not, whether we’re conscious of it or not, we leave a mark on every other life we meet.
Bear with me, here. Writer that I am, I seek the perfect word—and I’m not certain that “mark” is the best word for that last sentence. So I check my thesaurus. Other possibilities include stain, smear, and blotch. Or maybe evidence, proof, sign, and indication.
Uh-oh. Will the little grains of salt I sprinkle into lives today leave stains, smears, and blotches on the hearts and spirits of others? Or are they evidence, proof, and a sign of Whose I am?