David was just 22 years old that fateful morning when he bent down by a mountain stream scanning its stoney bottom. I see him in the early light of dawn looking through the clear water and carefully picking out five smooth stones. Of course there were other stones – large and small. Some were the right size but are rough and uneven. David had learned from experience that these were not the best stones for the job – the smooth ones are the best ones – custom formed, as it were, for the task at hand.
David often sat by streams. I think he knew very well the stones he chose that day had for hundreds, perhaps thousands, of years been going through a process of refinement. They were smooth only because of their collision with other stones and sand and water on their journey down the mountain stream to the pool of purification. And it was from that pool that the smooth stones were chosen – stones that would stop a giant dead in his tracks! The stones David chose that morning were smooth only because of many wounds, many trials, many conflicts, many collisions. Indeed if these stones were somehow to become conscious I suspect they might have thought of themselves as worn out – battle worn and past any usefulness. But they were just the kind of stones that became a powerful weapon in the hand of the skilled shepherd.
One of the things I have discovered in the bible and indeed in life is this: most, if not all of the people we come across who were used by The Shepherd, were stones formed in the streams of adversity. They were sometimes broken people – wounded people – struggling people and confused people. There are precious few, indeed I don’t know of any, who could say – “I have it all together”. They were all “stones” – refined in the stream of life with its tragedies and difficulties. And it is the stone made smooth that is ready to bring down a giant!
I may not know what your wound – your weakness or your problem is today and you may not know mine. Sometimes these wounds are so deep – so private we cannot even dare to share them. Or perhaps we are asking the question – “why am I like this – why am I always failing others, my family or even my God?”
I think we catch a glimpse of this in the experience of Peter (the rock). As Jesus stands on the threshold of the Cross – the place of his own wounding – he might have expected that his close friend Peter would stick with him – but he is aware that Peter will fail – even deny him. What he says to Peter at that point is very revealing –
“Simon, Simon, Satan has asked to sift each of you like wheat. But I have pleaded in prayer for you, Simon, that your faith should not fail (Please notice – Jesus did not pray that Peter would be excused from the hour of trial). So when you have repented and turned to me again, strengthen your brothers.”
It’s as if Jesus is saying to Peter – this self assured, steadfast, strong willed , confident man who was so certain that he, if anyone, would stand fast in the face of trial – “Peter – you are about to fail miserably and in that failure you will be deeply wounded. But Peter – I still love you – I still have faith in you – and when you have been healed – I want you to use your wound to bless – to encourage – to empower – to restore others.”
The American playwright and novelist Thornton Wilder’s wrote a play entitled – “The Angel That Troubled the Waters”. In the play a physician comes to the pool hoping to be healed of his deep wound of depression. But as he is about to step in to the pool the Angel stops him – telling him it is not his time. The angel then says –
“Without your wounds where would your power be? It is your melancholy that makes your low voice tremble into the hearts of men and women. The very angels themselves cannot persuade the wretched and blundering children on earth as can one human being broken on the wheels of living. In Love’s service, only wounded soldiers can serve. Physician, draw back.” Please be clear here – we are not saying God cannot and will not heal us of our wounds – but there is more than a grain of truth in the statement – “In Love’s service, only wounded soldiers can serve.”
As Peter and countless thousands down through the ages have discovered – our wounds – our unanswered prayers – our suffering – can be the springboard for a deeper faith – a deeper ministry – a deeper relationship with the One who is himself the wounded lover because through them we have become smooth stones – stones The Shepherd can use to slay giants!