Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights.” James 1:17
The Rock. If you talk to someone that has done “hard time” they will probably think you are talking about Alcatraz. If you talk to someone who likes action movies, they will probably think you are talking about Dewayne “The Rock” Johnson. But if you are talking to me or my wife Judy, then we will know you are talking about “the rock.” It’s a long story.
Judy and I met and fell in love in short order. I walked into her church one Wednesday night. I asked her out the next week and ever since then we have been a “we”. We were together as much as possible—we wanted to be together as much as possible. Since my Daddy had passed away that summer, Mama decided to spend Thanksgiving with my brother Joe up in the mountains, and I was invited to come join them. It was a deal because I really wanted to be with Judy, but I knew my place was with family and my Mama especially. So, I went. I told Judy I would miss her and I would bring her something back from the mountains.
Now I’m known for doing crazy things—it’s just me. While in the mountains I tried to think of something to take to Judy. It didn’t seem appropriate to take her a typical souvenir, so I got an idea. I would take her part of the mountains. I went out and found a rock. It was about the size of a pumpkin roll…elongated and was even orange with white stripes. As Thanksgiving rocks go…it was a pretty, good one. I washed it up and put it in the car. Game. Set. Match.
I’m sure in the book of love etiquette there is a chapter on what to bring your love when you go to the mountains. I am also sure if I had read that chapter a rock would not have made the cut. But hey, I was inexperienced. So I get back to Valdosta where I was stationed in the Air Force and where Judy lived. After the appropriate amount of hugs and kisses I presented her with her gift. She seemed thrilled and seemed to appreciate my thoughtfulness. Please note the word seemed.
Time goes by. We were married a while later and the rock made the trip from her parent’s house to our new apartment. We later received orders to Germany and the rock made the trip with us. When we came home from Germany and moved to our new duty assignment in Warrensburg, Missouri, the rock came with us. And on and on it went. To the home we built in Warrensburg, to the little parsonage in LaMonte, where I had my first full-time pastorate, to Cobden, Illinois where we pastored for 14 years. Finally, it came with us to Harrisburg. It was part of the family. It was more than a pet rock it was “the rock.”
About ten years ago, around 2010, somehow the topic of the rock came up. I was sharing how endeared I was to the rock—how important it was and then it happened. Judy told me she never liked the rock. She told me that she wasn’t thrilled all those years ago. She only pretended to be thrilled to make me happy. The bottom line was the rock was just a rock. Oh, the agony. Oh, the pain. Oh the “you’ve got to be kidding me.” Here I’ve been hauling this rock all over the world for nothing. I knew I should have gotten her one of those Smoky Mountain snow globes!
Well, like a pet who’s forgotten how to be potty trained, the rock was moved to the yard. It was still special to me, so it now sits on the grave of one of my favorite pets. Somehow that just seemed appropriate and if I were to move tomorrow—yes, the rock would go. If nothing else, it is a monument on what not to bring the girl you love from the mountains. I’m glad that God is better at gifts than I am. It seems—no, it more than seems, that He always gets it right.
He talks a lot about gifts in His Book. He loads us up day after day. Every sunrise and sunset is a gift. Every breath is a gift. Every fall leaf that floats to the ground full of color is a gift. We just have to look and recognize all that He gives us. James, one of Jesus’ half-brothers, wrote that every good gift, every perfect gift comes down from our Dearest Daddy. He just loves to shower us with His best and He does it again and again.
Well, it was no accident that I brought a souvenir rock home that year, it was no accident it was orange with white stripes, and it was no accident that it is still with us. In fact, the word souvenir is from the French, meaning “a memento, keepsake, or a token of remembrance which a person acquires for the memories the owner associates with it.” How about that! Still I guess it wasn’t the right gift for her on that day. Today though, it is the right motivation to remind us this year, above all years, to be grateful for a God, a Heavenly Father, who is oh so generous to His kids. Why not sit down today and make a list of all the things God has provided? Take your time…take a rest and when you are done…read the list to Him and say “thank-you, Father.” And then for all the things that are oh-so much bigger than you—for the things that just look like rocks, give them to Him because He’s got this.