Rock Saw

I have a functional rock saw. It’s dusty, rusty, and ugly, but it has one fancy feature: the blade–which has diamond chips on the edge. It can slice a rock in two but if I accidentally touch it, it won’t even scratch my skin. I know this in my head, but my neck muscles tighten to the point of popping when I flip the switch and begin guiding the chosen rock through the process of coming apart.

It is with reverence and holy anticipation that I open and explore the inner workings of stone. Some have nothing hidden and remain a steady brown or gray, but others have intricate interiors—patterns of color and luminosity, suggestions of scenery, stories of minerals and the workings of water. When the slabs first separate and emerge from the murky waters, they shine like newborns. The one has become two. A beautiful but sudden breakage has taken place—much different than the geologic forces that diminish stones slowly into smoother, more humble surfaces.

As it turns out, God doesn’t like my rock saw all that well. The Three-in-One stand alongside, frowning. They don’t approve of the primitive deconstruction of density and coherence. They don’t fully understand my all-too-human sequence of raw apprehension followed by awe. Maybe I don’t either. But as always, they are patient and kind.

“Having an audience doesn’t help,” I told them last evening, as I worked on a particularly hard specimen. Something deep inside that amalgamation of jasper and flint was so dense it repeatedly grabbed the blade and stalled out. I kept trying, but the motor reached the shut-down temperature, so there we sat, waiting for things to cool.

“Want something to drink?” I asked, hoping they’d say no and go somewhere they’d be more appreciated. They glanced among themselves, mentally conferring about the status of their hydration and the needs of the universe.

“Don’t let me keep you,” I added. “This could take a while.”

Again, they conferred. And laughed. A flock of sparrows landed on their outstretched arms which had blackened to coal. Then diamond. Then jasper, blood red and mustard yellow. The sparrows lifted the inextricable threesome, dropped them in the river and updrafted into numinous air I could only hope to breathe someday. A very high place. Heaven, if you will.

As time came back into focus, the motor had cooled enough to let me start again, working slowly through the recalcitrant hunk of greatly compressed life. “It has to be beautiful in there if it is this hard to cut,” I thought to myself. I often think things that turn out to be mostly wrong . This is an insight that often brings a surprising amount of peace.

The Pockmarked Rock

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Sometimes God looks at me with big soulful eyes that say “I know what you know and I know that you know I know so why bother to hide?” And I say, “You know why.” And God nods. And I say, “Why do you bother?” And God says, “With what?” And I say, “With pockmarked rocks, knots in wood, burned out doctors, and the achingly slow evolution of the human spirit.”

There are tons of rocks in our house. Found, acquired, given. A few approach perfection, worn so smooth it would be hard to imagine anything smoother or rounder. Most have their reasons, but some are a mystery. How did this ugly, misshapen rock make its way into the collection? It is irredeemably ordinary, commonplace, without any distinction other than the irregularities it has not overcome. I don’t like this rock. I want to take it to the river and throw it in, but I can’t. Once a rock crosses the threshold it is beyond me to push it back out.

Without another word, God wraps strong fingers around the pockmarked rock, and it begins to glow and shimmer. Then it melts, and the demons escape, screaming into the haze. They form an astonishing acapella chorus, their screams subside into a river song, and the rock wants them back. God laughs.

“See, little one?” God says. “You already knew that story. It’s a grand one, isn’t it? One of my favorite plots.”

“You mean the inextricability of imperfection and perfection?” I ask. “Or are you just reminding me how ordinary I am?”

God takes my face into her hands, her palms under my jaw, those same strong fingers winding up the sides of my skull.

“Don’t bother,” I say. “The demons will just come back.”

“Yes,” God says. “But they always come back singing.”

I nod.