Earlier this month I received the most meaningful birthday present of my life. When you get to be my age birthdays are kind of like unspoken prayer requests. You are aware they are there but you don’t want to make them public.
But my family still insists on acknowledging the march of time on my birthday. So the morning of April 6th dawned and my wife gave me a lovely card. And then she presented her gift.
She gave me a rock. She handed it to me, smart alecks. It was not delivered up side of the head. I have to admit that I looked a bit quizzically at the gift. I looked at her and tried to think of the right thing to say.
“Hey, it is just the color I was looking for! And what a cool shape. Thanks!”
But my wife spared me by asking the logical question. “Do you know why I am giving you a rock?”
“Tell me.” I replied gratefully.
“Because you have been my rock through all of this.”
Suddenly that stone took on the value of a Tiffany diamond to me. Joni’s reference to “all of this” was her diagnosis with breast cancer and our mutual efforts to confront that from a spiritual, emotional, and medical point of view. I have written about her cancer earlier. But to be honest I haven’t felt like a rock. The fact that she felt that way was an enormously touching to me.
I guess I had always thought about a “rock” being like the lyrics from the Simon and Garfunkel song…
I am shielded in my armor,
Hiding in my room, safe within my womb.
I touch no one and no one touches me.
I am a rock,
I am an island.
And a rock feels no pain;
And an island never cries.
I would guess that many men have been raised in that model. But any man or woman who is truly a “rock” through adversity does feel pain and they openly acknowledge that pain. And they certainly cry. How could I not cry about what my partner and best friend faces in the months ahead? So many people make the comment that they could not handle what Joni and I are experiencing as well as we are handling it. I disagree. I disagree because we said exactly the same thing in the past as we watched others endure adversity with strength and grace. There is one gigantic key to being a rock in a storm. That key is found in the gospel of Matthew.
Anyone who listens to my teaching and obeys me is wise, like a person who builds a house on solid rock. Though the rain comes in torrents and the floodwaters rise and the winds beat against that house, it won’t collapse, because it is built on rock. But anyone who hears my teaching and ignores it is foolish, like a person who builds a house on sand. When the rains and floods come and the winds beat against that house, it will fall with a mighty crash.” After Jesus finished speaking, the crowds were amazed at his teaching…
If I have displayed any characteristics of value in this trial it is because we decided as a couple to build on the solid rock of God’s Word. We did not know this storm was coming. We did not have time to board up the windows or reinforce the foundation. We had to have our foundation already built on the rock. And it has not collapsed.
I value my birthday gift. But I feel like I should regift it to my amazing wife. And then we should both place it on the altar to honor the real “Rock” in this journey…Jesus.