When she was 5, our daughter, Lucy, was fascinated with rocks. It got to the point where her rock collection had to be moved outside and became her rock garden. For her birthday, she asked for a rock polisher. That seemed like a good idea―a nice way to pass the time and learn a few things. Plus, polished rocks are beautiful.
Even when I looked into it and saw the price, I went ahead. They aren’t cheap!
When Lucy opened the polisher, we were all a little disappointed. I think I was expecting a machine where you dropped a rock in and, after going through a lot of spinning brushes and it would come out polished in a few seconds.
For those of you who don’t know, a rock polisher is a system that slowly rolls a can with a tight fitting lid. It was a really expensive rolling can.
What polishes rocks is other rocks. You can add some things to help the process, but really, it’s just rocks knocking tiny bits off other rocks until they’re smooth.
Polishing rocks can take as little as one week, or as long as two months. You plug in the tumbler and the can rolls constantly. 24/7. There are a lot of little things that make a difference, but basically, you just let the rocks roll around and until they make each other smooth. That’s a lot longer than the few seconds I had imagined.
What a lovely metaphor.
In “Tested, Proved and Polished,” Henry B. Eyring says that the purpose of the Creation of this world was “to give [God's] children the opportunity to prove themselves able and willing to choose the right when it is hard. In so doing, their natures would be changed and they could become more like Him.” I agree with him.
I believe that we are here on Earth to be changed―to become more selfless, more compassionate, more courageous and more loving--like Jesus Christ. We’re here to have our edges knocked off― to have opportunities to choose the right when it is hard. Every time we respond to a hard situation with a good choice, we're polished a bit more.
There are all kinds of discomforts and trials that provide us with polishing opportunities. Sometimes we’re tired and didn't eat anything but Cheez-it crackers for lunch and our sister is standing too close--so close you can feel her breathing on you.
Lots of times, we’re asked to do things we don't want to do. Jobs are lost. Money is tight. Families come apart. Our bodies hurt. Our hearts hurt. We don’t feel good. We get lonely. We watch other people who seem to have no troubles at all and it doesn’t feel fair.
Each time we face hardship, light, heavy, or crushing, we have a chance to become a little smoother. A little kinder, a little more faithful, more loving, more forgiving and confident in Him.
There are a couple of points I wanted to make about lapidary. Did you know that the word for a person who polishes rocks is the same as the word for the action of polishing rocks? So, two points about lapidary:
- You need to know your rocks.
- The process transforms them.
1. All rocks are not the same. A good lapidary knows agate is different than jasper. quartz is different than feldspar. It matters what rocks you put together. A good lapidary knows that an unpolished rock often starts out looking very different than a polished one.
Last weekend, our four year-old, Lena, and I were waiting to watch Lucy complete in a cheerleading competition. It had been a long day. There was a lot of standing in lines that barely moved. To pass the time, we’d been playing hide and go seek, but we needed to switch it up. Lena noticed the little rocks in the flower beds and made up a hiding game. She would show me a few rocks in her hand, then I would turn around and she would hide them―in the other rocks. I had a really, really hard time finding those rocks. They all looked the same to me--but Lena found them easily.
She knew exactly where each one was.
Sometimes, I think, we feel unnoticed and overlooked like a pebble in a handful of gravel. But our Father in heaven knows us. He knows exactly where we are.
2. Polishing changes a rock―but it changes it by refining what’s already there, not by replacing it. The sharp edges are smoothed, but if anything, once a rock is polished, you see more of what makes it uniquely beautiful, not less. It’s colors become brighter and clearer.
In Doctrine and Covenants 58:4, it says, “after much tribulation come the blessings.”
Henry B. Eyring added, “The greatest blessing that will come when we prove ourselves faithful to our covenants during our trials will be a change in our natures.”
You can put plain, unremarkable rocks into a tumbler and they will emerge treasures. But it takes a long time to chip off the outer layers. Sometimes, they’re so different when they come out, they’re unrecognizable.
Eyring says: “By our choosing to keep our covenants, the power of Jesus Christ and the blessings of His Atonement can work in us. Our hearts can be softened to love, to forgive, and to invite others to come unto the Savior. Our confidence in the Lord increases. Our fears decrease.”
We are polished.
Eyring continued “I have seen people rise to great heights through proving faithful in terrible trials. Across the Church today are examples. People are driven to their knees by adversity. By their faithful endurance and effort, they become more like the Savior and our Heavenly Father.
In Moses 1:39 in the Doctrine and Covenants, the Lord says,“For behold, this is my work and my glory―to bring to pass the immortality and eternal life of man.”
Our immortality and eternal life is His work and his glory.
This is why He allows us to “go forth, suffering pains and afflictions and temptations of every kind” It’s because all these things shall give [us] experience, and shall be for [our] good.”
Through this tribulation, He sees us. As Henry B. Eyring says, “He may not remove the burden, but He will give [us] strength, comfort, and hope. He knows the way. He drank the bitter cup. He endured the suffering of all.”
He invites us to remember him, to learn of him―to feast upon his words and keep the covenants we have made with Him. He invites to accept the guidance and comfort he provides through the Holy Ghost, and to lift others, even when we are suffering ourselves.
Looking beyond our own circle of uncertainty or suffering can be difficult, but it can bring real relief. Service is the life hack of life hacks. If you’re having a hard time, help someone else. It will make your life better.
About 15 years ago, when we learned at a check-up that Lucy needed brain surgery the next day, I was a mess. Somehow, I made a really good decision in that uncertainty. I just went across the street to help with a little service project, but it made a huge difference for me. It calmed me and brought me peace.
When I look back on my life, I often forget the hard times. But, besides great stories, these challenges have given me some of my greatest treasures. These experiences have helped me grow personally and increased my faith.
Even when we realize that pain and challenges strengthen and refine us, none of us are standing in line to suffer. But this is the way it’s done. I believe that each of us are here on Earth to be tested, proved and polished so that, in the end, we can join Him.