it doesn’t take much to turn a stumbling stone (or block) into a stepping stone, but the impact on each individual who travels that particular path is far greater than one would imagine. All that is required to turn a stumbling stone into a stepping stone is that the standing stone be laid down, flattest side up. Now it is useful. Before it was blocking the path, now the same stone provides a way across whatever small break in the path has presented itself.
Usually it is water, especially after a heavy rain, that may be flowing across a usually dry path. Not enough water to warrant a bridge mind you, but enough water that stepping stones are needed. Not a lot, just a few stones, to provide a way across the unforeseen gap in the path and enable the traveler to keep going forward, not to have to turn back.
How many times have I done this while hiking? I come across what is normally a dry riverbed now covered with water. Simply by knocking over some standing rocks they become stepping stones providing safe passage for the few steps I need to cross.
Stepping stones aren’t grand like a bridge, they don’t need to be. They just need to help people on their journey on that small part of the path. Stepping stones provide just what is needed in that moment, a place to put my foot just long enough to get my balance and take the next step. Stepping stones stand in the gap by lying down in the gap. They lie in the mud, the muck and the mire so that my feet don’t get stuck there.
That’s the beauty of a stepping stone. The secret of the stepping stone is that it lies down rather than stands up. This is counter cultural to us. We are told to stand up for ourselves, to stand up to other people, not to let people walk all over us. Then I read “Greater love has no one than this, that he lay down his life for his friends.” (John 15:13) Jesus did that.
“The reason My Father loves Me is that I lay down My life – only to take it up again. No one takes it from Me, but I lay it down of My own accord. I have authority to lay it down and authority to take it up again. This command I received from My Father.” (John 10:17-18)
I want to be a stepping stone for the people God puts in my path. I surely don’t want to be a stumbling block, causing them harm, standing in their way, blocking their view or their path. Lord, forgive me when I’m so busy standing firm that I forget to lay down just long enough for someone to find a foothold and cross over, continuing on their way to You.
Ecclesiastes 3 talks about a time for everything under heaven and gives many examples such as “a time to be born and a time to die, a time to plant and a time to uproot, a time to weep and a time to laugh,” well, you get the idea.
In Ephesians 6, I read, “Put on the full armor of God so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes. . . . so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand. Stand firm then, . . . ”
In 1 Corinthians 8:9 I read, “Be careful, however, that the exercise of your freedom does not become a stumbling block to the weak.” And in Romans 14:13 I am told, “Therefore let us stop passing judgment on one another. Instead, make up your mind not to put any stumbling block or obstacle in your brother’s way.”
I think I’d like to add to the list in Ecclesiastes chapter three another “time to” guideline. I’m thinking, “a time to stand up and a time to lie down.” I am told to stand firm in my faith but I am also told to lay down my life for others. They are not mutually exclusive. I can do both. I am commanded to do both.
Laying down my life may not be the grand gesture some of the martyrs of the faith have been called to in the past. It is the dying to self a thousand times a day, laying down my life again and again – which I must learn to do if I would transform from a stumbling stone into a stepping stone. Only then can the Master use me for His good purposes.
Jesus was a stone mason. He surely knows how to turn a stumbling block like me into a stepping stone. I pray that He puts me in place every day, right where I am needed, right where He wants me. He alone can accomplish this transition, this transformation in me, turning me from a stumbling block into a stepping stone. This is accomplished by turning me on my side and laying me down, just as I did with the rocks in my road in order to turn them into stepping stones.
The humbling of the stumbling stone, I call it. I experience this often from the gentle hand of my Heavenly Father. Without this humbling I cannot be the stepping stone that serves His purposes by providing passage for His people along the path.
Lord, help me to stand when You want me to stand firm. Help me to lay down and become a stepping stone when that is what is needed. Both take courage. Give me the wisdom to know when to do the one and when to become the other.
sincerely, Grace Day