Pebbles of all sizes and shapes are tucked inside a simple container; following that, you turn on a switch and the container begins rocking back and forth in a slow circular motion, forcing the stones to be shuffled one against another over and over and over again. There is a soft monotonous chatter going on as this happens; the stones appear to abrade and jostle each other with easy abandon.
This intimate dance of stones continues all day, all night, all week, all month, all year. That's how long it takes for the abrading, the rubbing, the tumbling to do its magic. If you were to stand urgently by the machine for a weekend and wait for a quick result you would be deeply disppointed: one weekend is a mere blink in the polishing process.
This is a long, long trip the stones are taking; it requires your most profound patience and respect. And if you are able to endure the passage of time without wincing, if you are able to listen to the low, ceaseless murmur of dancing pebbles, if you are able to relax and let the gleaming unfold in its own slow inexorable way, in the end you find yourself the recipient of an amazing gift.
And I mean amazing. After countless months of wild, continuous shoulder-to-shoulder roughhousing and cavorting, you approach the machine, turn off the motor, place a few stones in your hand.
And what have you got? Open your fingers. There they are.
Gems. With rough edges, barbs, and dullness gone forever, here is what remains: essence of Stone.
Deeply burnished, glistening like fire, impossibly flawless stones are now warming the skin of your palm. You can't bear to put them down: they are too sleek, too sensual, too beautiful. So beautiful that looking at them almost hurts your heart.
And you stand there stunned, because no matter how many wonders you've seen before, you simply can't get over this one single miracle. Before they were simply ordinary stones; now they are priceless.
So the next time you tumble against a cloudy day, an edgy friend, a staggering debt, a hot dry patch of insult, or a wild burst of illness, remember the stones. Tell yourself: I will surrender to this tumbling and polishing and rest myself in the One Who controls the switch.
Because I am being polished. I am being shaved of self. I am being reduced to essence.
I am being made a living stone in the hands of God.