Intern Minister's Messages
- Published Date
Rocks and Sand
One day this week an Andover Newton classmate and I got together to work on a school project. We began talking about old “Sunday School” stories. I wonder if any readers remember this one? The storyteller starts with a 1-gallon jar, ten to twelve large fist-sized rocks, some gravel-sized rocks and a big zip-lock bag of sand. The task is to put everything in the jar. First, the sand gets poured in. It takes up a lot of room. Then the small rocks go in. Finally, the storyteller tries to fit the big rocks into the jar, but by now the jar is full, and there is not enough room for them.
Do you know this one? After failing the first time, you realize that you have put everything in backwards, and you start again. This time the big rocks go in first. They all fit. Next come the gravel-sized rocks—they scoot around the big ones, no problem. Finally, the big zip-lock bag of sand gets poured in. The sand fills in all the cracks and everything fits nicely into the jar. There’s even room to pour a pitcher of water on top of it all. A powerful visual.
What was the point of the story? We tried to remember! “Maybe it’s about priorities. How we first need to take care of the big things first and everything else, the small stuff, comes later,” I ventured. “What you put in first is what really matters most.”
“Well, of course,” my friend said. “You put God in first.”
“God?!” said I. “That story is about God?”
“Why, yes. What else would it be about, but God”? she said, wide-eyed.
“Wow, I had no idea that story was about God!” I said. “I’m pretty sure it wasn’t when I heard it years ago at my UU church.” That was a hilarious moment. We laughed and laughed.
My friend, a good Christian of the United Church of Christ, was amazed. “But what WAS the first thing at your church?” she wondered.
It had been a long time. It was easier to remember the unforgettable picture than the message, like when we recall a great advertisement but can’t remember what it was for! I knew, though, that the Unitarian Universalist story was about how we choose to live our faith. The big rocks might have been love or purpose or making the world a better place. They might have been the worth and dignity of every person, fairness, equality, don’t you suppose?
Once upon a time my friend and I each saw a memorable picture of rocks and sand not fitting, then fitting beautifully into a jar. We came away with a similar message that some things are worth putting first, that we need to put in what matters first. How we expressed “what matters” differed….
I invite you to consider what rocks you would put in the jar first? What matters the most to you? What would you like to think of first when you get up in the morning? Our heads swirl with millions of thoughts all day long, like grains of sand in the wind. What are your deep, abiding touch points?
Betsy Tabor is UUCR’s Intern Minister.