Ponder the rock from which you were cut,
the quarry from which you were dug.
This is from Isaiah 51. For those of a more poetic bent, it’s also rendered as “look unto the rock whence ye are hewn,” in the King James.
I thought of finding a photo of Michelangelo’s David sculpture before completion or a half finished Barbara Hepworth to illustrate what I had been thinking about. Instead, because it is more in keeping with the way my mind works, I am giving you a photo of Han Solo encased in carbonite – which is a real thing. (It’s not a real thing.)
In my ignorance I had always thought that “the rock” spoken of here would be Jesus – because of his well known rock-like qualities etc but if you read the verse following, it isn’t that at all
Yes, ponder Abraham, your father,
and Sarah, who bore you.
Think of it! One solitary man when I called him,
but once I blessed him, he multiplied.
For the children of Israel, they were being reminded of their heritage – their lineage. The things that had happened that had moulded them. The people in their past who had laid the foundations of faith for them.
Now for some people, the example of their parents would not be the most thrilling thing they could think of. I don’t think that’s just what it means. (Although you have to notice that even the strangest people can be held up by God as decent examples. Abraham was such a coward that he told the admittedly terrifying person who was taking a shine to his wife Sarah, that she was actually his sister. He was, therefore, risking pimping his wife out to avoid getting into trouble. Charmed, I’m sure) Yet God built a whole nation around him.
I also know that parents don’t have to be perfect to be a good part of the rock. My parents were first generation Christians who came to faith at different times after their marriage, and couldn’t stand the sight of each other. (Talk about my ways are not thy ways) Yet, despite what could, on it’s better days, be described as a tense family atmosphere, I am aware that their paths to faith introduced me to Christ, to Christian people and thinking and, when the marriage finally spectacularly imploded with more casualties than a scene from Dunkirk, there was an understanding that the children came as near to first as they could possibly manage at the time.
So I don’t think this is just parents. It’s the people you met, the mentors, the ministers, the friends. The big, strong base of faith that had surrounded and moulded us, watched over and prayed for us. Pointed at us and laughed when we got too poncy. Let me give you the idea…
Mrs Foster. Must have been about 120. Always sat with Mr Foster. Second row, second seat in. A hat was non-negotiable. Tiny little thing. Would tug quietly on my hand as I walked past. I was fourteen and still considering dealing with life by going completely bonkers. I was a complete mystery to her but she always told me she was praying for me. I knew she was.
Ruth and Karen. My best church friends. We had nothing in common at all. Nothing. I was always in trouble for eye-liner, use of curling tongs and too short skirts. (“Well, I think that one is a little more like it don’t you dear? At least that hem has a passing relationship with your knees” Ha ha ha) They had little interest in appearance – too little I thought. But Ruth came from a solid Christian background, took me under her wing and explained how “church” worked. Karen was the most sensible person I had ever met – she taught me about being steady and stable and that not everything needed to be responded to by running into a toilet cubicle and slamming the door behind me. She married at 16 and I have never been so certain that a marriage was going to work. (I was right) Ruth married a beautiful Muslim man, had four children (all boys – made her very popular with the in-laws) and lived out a different version of her faith than expected.
Mrs Danks. Ran the Sunday School. Asked me to teach. Couldn’t understand why. I had no idea about children and only slightly more of an idea about who Jesus was. She stuck by me when my visual aid for turning water into wine was just too good and parents complained that their children were coming home saying they had seen an actual real miracle. (Cochineal hidden at the bottom of a water bottle in case you were wondering) I loved it though. Studied to get it right. Learnt so much about the Bible.
These are the people I am carved from. These are some of the first, but as time has gone on, there were countless others. They have helped influence me, carry me, make little chapter tabs for my Bible and all the other stuff that people do to chip away and reveal the character that is me – or ideally the better me that God wants me to become. So, if you get a chance, have a think. Have a grateful think. Unfortunately, I’m not in touch with any of these people. (Surely Mrs Foster will have been transported now) If you are – you could say thanks. Or think about doing a bit yourself. Being someone that is the support/rock that people are carved from.