Lessons In Stone

e_CES1686Yesterday I had a chance to visit Petrified Forest National Park in Arizona.  It had been close to twenty years since I was last there but I’ve eagerly anticipated returning for quite some time.  I remembered from my first visit the beautiful colors that could be found in some of the fossilized trees.  I was hoping I’d be able to find some similar logs to photograph.  As you can see here, I found some lovely samples.  The colors in these logs are absolutely amazing.  They represent, for me at least, some of God’s most stunning work.  As I composed my various images I was in awe of what appeared in my viewfinder.  I found my thoughts moving in a spiritual direction and pondering the imponderable—if there are aspects of Creation this beautiful, just how beautiful must God be!  One can only imagine…

My thoughts later went to the time it took for such beauty to emerge from fallen trees.  The petrification of wood certainly does not occur overnight.  It took time, much time, for the process to be completed.  This thought led me to think about how it also takes a good bit of time for other natural objects of beauty—such as diamonds and pearls—to reach the state we admire and value so much.   It may not be a hard and fast rule but it would seem that it takes a great deal of time for the most beautiful things in the world to be created.

e_CES1702I have a feeling that is also true for people.  Real beauty—not the kind the world puts on a pedestal—generally takes decades, not years, to develop.  I would say that the same thing is true in the spiritual life.  Those Christians who most closely resemble the beauty of God did not reach their level of spiritual maturity quickly.  No, it took a very long time for that particular form of beauty to emerge as well.

Interestingly, all the items I’ve mentioned—petrified wood, diamonds, pearls–all achieved their beauty only after long periods of pressure were exerted upon them.  If you look at the lives of the saints, those from Biblical times on up to today, you will discover that each of them also lived out their lives under a great deal of pressure.  They experienced hard times that helped shape them into the persons of beauty and holiness they became.  It is unlikely they would have got to the place they did without the hard times.

e_CES8683I have a picture in my mind of the kind of Christian I would like to be.  I often get frustrated with myself because my life does not match this picture very often.  The petrified wood I photographed yesterday reminds me that it takes time to become something that beautiful and that it also involves enduring hardship and difficult times.  Somehow these thoughts bring me comfort and give me hope.  Perhaps there is still time for me to get to where I need to be.  After all, God isn’t finished with me yet!