Smoothing the rough edges of life

Chuck Tabor - Contributing columnist

One day a friend was sharing with me an observation that he had made on a trip to the Pacific Northwest.

He was telling me how much he enjoyed seeing God’s creative power demonstrated in the magnificent landscapes painted on the canvas of the beautiful and wide expanses of the “Big Sky” country.

But then he shared with me an observation that I thought is worth passing on to you.

He said that he stopped to look at one of the mountain streams, with its crystal clear water flowing down the side of the mountain from the snow-capped peaks.

And as he looked he noticed one thing about the stream – there were plenty of rocks in the stream. Some large, some small. They were all round, but each of them was different.

And the force of the water coming down the stream had shaped each one of those jagged-edged mountain rocks into a round smooth stone – each one different, but also each one the same.

You know, the picture that my friend saw is very much like the picture that God is painting in each one of our lives.

If we see that mountain stream as the “river” of life, and the rocks being each one of us, then the “water” of life is the stuff that shapes us and our character and determines how we respond to the “whirlpools” and “rapids” – the problems and difficulties we face each day of our lives.

And in essence, we can either “go with the flow,” as the rocks do when the current is strong enough, or face a never-ending struggle with the simple tasks of day-to-day living.

That truth hit home in an account I read about a young lady named Ann who, by her own admission, had lived a nominally Christian life until she married. Her Christian beliefs seemed practically irrelevant to her new married life, and she and her husband essentially gave up any practice of the Christian faith.

Typically, this wealthy couple, living “the American dream” in luxury, found themselves in a disaster of a marriage. But Ann adored her youngest son T.J.

Even though Ann had never sent her children to Sunday school, and the name of God was never mentioned in their house, one day T. J. said, “Mamma, I love you more than anything in the world except God. And I love him a little bit more!”

Taken aback, Ann told him that was okay, as long as it was God he loved more than her. But why would he speak of God? she wondered. Even more mysterious was why he should love a God whose name he never heard from her lips.

Two days later was one of the coldest of a bitterly cold winter, T. J. crossed a creek that was covered with snow and broke through the ice. He must have died immediately, although it took the family an hour and a half to find him.

The first words out of Ann’s mouth when she heard the news were, “I hate you, God!” But even as she spit out the words, she felt herself held in loving arms.

As her world shattered around her, she remembered another mysterious thing T. J. had done that week. He had bought a Christmas gift for her at the Secret Santa shop at school and kept trying to give it to her. She had told him to put it away until Christmas.

When she got home from the stables that day, she located the gift and opened it to find a beautiful necklace with a cross. Also, prior to the accident, her husband had no religious belief, but he cried out to God for help and sensed an immediate response to his prayer.

Slowly, their old materialistic lives melted away, their marriage healed, and they became new creatures in Christ. (Diane Komp, Window to Heaven, Zondervan, 1992)

In this couple, God took the water of life and allowed His love to pour over them in order to not-so-gently wear down the rough edges of resistance to Him.

However, for the Christian, although the stuff that life is made of does seem to attack us with some sort of indifferent cruelty, the water is the Word of God implanted in our lives by the Spirit of God (check out Ephesians 6:17 and Titus 3:5).

And through the work of the Spirit of God, we see that the rough edges of our lives are smoothed away by the washing of the Word.

Another interesting observation is this: although each one of the stones in the bed of the mountain stream is basically rounded and the rough edges are worn away over time and the constant abrasion of the water, each of those stones is also very different. Some are large and smooth. Others are small and smooth. Some are oblong and thin, and some are thick and heavy. Some are light-colored and shiny. Others are dark-colored and almost camouflaged in the bed of the stream.

The body of Christ is that way.

We are all different. But as we allow the Spirit of God to work in our lives through the Word, we all have the same forces at work on us and in us, and so we will basically be the same.

One other thing: Have you ever seen rocks in a stream bed that has gone dry? They are generally not very smooth, and always very dirty.

Yep, you guessed it… the same thing is true for us Christians as well. If we are not allowing the Word of God to infiltrate and affect our lives the way He wants to shape us, we will get dirty.

The moral then is clear, isn’t it? Stay in the Word of God and allow Him to shape you into the kind of person He wants you to be.

God loves you greatly and the water of His Word will smooth off the rough edges of life!

God bless!

Chuck Tabor is a regular columnist for the News Journal and a former pastor in the area. He may be reached at

Chuck Tabor

Contributing columnist