Thursday, January 31, 2008

Memory Stones

I collect rocks. When I go somewhere new I look for a small rock to bring back, something typical of the area. I label it with a Sharpie and it becomes a memory stone for me. I think the habit started years ago when I first went abroad to Costa Rica. Standing atop volcano Irazu I noticed an atypical quartz-like dark stone lying on the broad expanse of gray basalt. It rode home with me in my pocket. I gave it to a geology teacher to identify a few years ago and never retreived it. It may still be in his classroom. But the stones have been gathering ever since.

My immediate family enjoys a good laugh at me because of this. When I unpack after a trip they say, "Where are the rocks?" and insist that one of these days Customs is going to deprive me of my collection. I just smile at their teasing. I have enough Scottish stubborn-ness to keep doing as I please.

I was looking over the memory stones from this past trip and one in particular got me to thinking. I picked it up at Bet' She-an, the ancient Roman city mentioned in an earlier post. It is marble and the small ridge seen by the shadow in the picture indicates it was part of a carved stone. With all the ornamental marble carvings the Romans did, that is not uncommon.
But consider this. Slave labor cut this stone from perhaps one of the Roman quarries in Asia Minor. It was loaded on a ship and taken to the major port of Caesarea. There more hands loaded it on a cart to be hauled along the Via Maris (the Roman road) up to the Jezreel Valley and then down to Bet' She-an. Craftsmen then carved the stone to fit into the facade of the Cardo, the main road of the town. The large carving this piece was a part of could have come crashing down in the earthquake of 479 BC. and shattered. This small piece lay in the debris through the centuries. With all the marble uncovered in the excavations of the 20th century, it was not significant enough to be collected, and so it lay there until some nerd came along and picked it up, put it in his pocket, and carried it half-way around the world to his home in South Carolina.
When I rub my fingers along the shaped ridge I think of the countless people who have been in contact with this stone, unknown to me, and yet all of us known to God. The psalmist exclaimed, "What is man, O God, that thou art mindful of him?" (Please excuse the gender limited usage of the KJV, Psalm 8.) "Yet thou hast made him a little lower than the angels, and hast crowned him with glory and honor."
Of the unknown multitude associated with this rock in its history, I suppose most of them knew little glory and honor in their lifetime. Yet in the sight of God, each person was beloved. What greater honor is there than to be valued by the creator of the heavens and earth? That is more than I can comprehend, but that's the nature of God revealed to us in Jesus Christ.
The great Roman empire of this stone witness is long gone. The marble monuments we erect to ourselves get shattered. Our penchant for praise and significance has us striving for honors that disappear within a generation. But the love of God endures forever. Blessed be the name of the Lord.

1 comment:

Steve said...

Great perspective! And I like hearing about how others signify their moments, as you with the rocks.