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Conformed

I’m sitting here on the beach, the steadfast waves crashing against the shore, the sun warm on my back, taken in, overcome – just in awe of God. I know, the beach is an inspiring place for many people, but this is a new experience for me as sand is not really my friend. But this beach, this beach speaks to my soul – it’s full of beautiful stones!
Oh, I can't wait to explore! Last time I was here there was a short drop from the sand to where the waves stretched. Now it appears the waves have carved a new path to the shore and piled up a stone ramp. These new stones are much larger than the ones that were here a little over a week ago. (Things like this fascinate me and cause me to wonder as I take it all in.)

I can hardly take a step without oohing and ahhing over the lovely stones. I feel a little like the Sand Pipers, walking along the shore, head down, poking through the sand, as I scoop up stone after stone, hands full. 

Searching for something to carry my treasure.I empty out the beach bag since I forgot to bring a  coffee can. No matter, the larger stones wouldn’t have fit anyway! Last visit there were mostly pebble sized stones with a few larger ones. This time most are the size of a baseball and larger!

I am just amazed at the variety! That there are so many different kinds and colors of stones. And even those of similar color are varied in their shape and size. Another wonder that captures my mind and I sense a parable unfolding before my eyes…
These stones have been tumbled in the surf, tumbled in the sand, tumbled against the each other. And I wonder how long it’s taken to knock off sharp edges, round off corners, smooth them. Amazed by this process that ultimately reveals each stone’s lovely coloring, its distinctive striations, and how even the scars inflicted over the course of time give character. 
A quick glance across the vast beach and it’s easy to see that the constancy of this process has fashioned each rock into similar shape. Though each remains unique, it is being conformed…
Oh, how like our own journey. We, a stone broken from a large rock of family – uniquely our own, but wholly a part of something much larger than ourselves, begin rough around the edges, fragmented, not fully certain of who we are.

Over time, weather and wear refine and even help define us, but our true beauty still lay hidden deep within…

It’s only when we are willing to surrender to something greater than ourselves that lasting transformation happens. Like these stones that were once part of the landscape but at some point let go of their position affording the sea to have its way. So must we surrender to God and let Him shape our life into what He has designed it to be. 
Even still, we must cooperate with the process and it doesn’t happen overnight. Years and storms and waves must have their way with us, and it is often painful. Should we shrink back and limit what we will allow God to do in us, we may have smoothed edges but alas, we will not become who God intended us to be. And His beauty in us, remains hidden from the world.
God’s work in us is meant to be done in community where we will be changed as we are tumbled together, where we bump against one another, forgive one another, rest upon one another, encourage one another, comfort one another, bring out the best in one another and polish one another in the great waves of His transformative power.

And we, being conformed into the image of Christ, though retaining our uniqueness, shall become like Him, each and all who dare to brave the waves…

As I look across the shoreline this parable plays out before my eyes. There are still a few stones that look as if they’ve just begun their journey, and it comes to me that I can help them along, and so fling them wholeheartedly into the sea. Knowing the Master will have His way with them and one day soon, they will come to rest again upon this shore, new and renewed, ready for the tumbling, ready for their inner beauty to be revealed in the sunlight, and have their scars become beautiful veining… 
It makes me sad as I look higher upon the shoreline where the stones are out of reach of the waves. How did they get so far from the surf? Though smooth and even rounded, they are dull and colorless. Dried up mounds of sameness. Likened to believers who’ve wandered away from God, who, now just blend in with their surroundings. And their true beauty, hidden from sight, dulled over…
And just about that time a sneaker wave comes reeling in, taking me by surprise and I laugh as I run from its reach, and watch in wonder as the mounds of sameness are soaked, ruffled and tossed a bit. And they are washed anew. Their true colors revealed, aflame as they glisten from the waves again. Oh, isn’t that just the way of God?! 
Nothing is too far from His reach. No one is too far gone that He won’t come bring His refreshing, restoring Presence upon their lives once again.
    

Oh, that we would see the beauty of God in each person and honor their place in the journey.
Would we not bristle and run from community that rubs us wrong, for in it we may be being polished.
Would we not compare ourselves or others. For we know not one another’s journey.
Would we not despise our scars. For God will make them beauty.
Would we not cling to familiar ground, but fall wholeheartedly into the God’s plan for our life.
Would we embrace our journey, knowing that God is bringing good from it.
Would we be willing to stay in the surf, even when it gets rough and we are tossed about relentlessly.
Would we be willing to bring our brother to the shore and cast him into the Grace of God and then sit, waiting, longing, for his return.
Would we so long to be conformed into the image of the Son, Jesus, that we would endure anything and everything for it to be done in us.
Would we see the beauty of the process. Knowing that the pain is a sign of a good work being done.
Would we see the beauty in ourselves, boasting not of our own efforts, but of the transformational power of God at work in us.


I pick up a beautiful, perfectly shaped stone and roll it over in my hand and wonder just how long it’s been in the waves…

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