Life is Like a Rock Tumbler
One particularly difficult day, I was thinking about how I felt like a rock being tumbled, tossed, and shaken in a rock tumbler. It got me thinking about the similarities between life and rocks in a rock tumbler. Although any analogy will break down the farther you take it, I began thinking of all the similarities.
What I knew about rock tumblers made me think about God's master plan for each of us, His children. All of us are dull and rough without God, like a plain and ordinary rock found on the side of the road. Yet God knows our potential, He knows what we could become. God loves us, even as dull and rough as we begin, because He made us. Yet as a dull rock through the process of refinement in the rock tumbler, God wants to refine us throughout our lifetime to become the beautiful and precious stone that He sees us to be.
It's sanctification at its finest. This big old "churchy" word is the lengthy process by which we are continually changed and transformed to be more like Christ and to be more set apart from the world. When we believe in the saving work of Jesus, we are put in the tumbler. As a dull rock, we cannot get ourselves into the rock tumbler, but we are put there and the process to change begins. But we are not made perfect overnight, it is a long and often grueling process.
I knew the process for the rock tumbler was lengthy but I thought it would be fun to do this analogy with my youth group. I had my mom scrounge up her old Thumler's rock tumbler. The instructions were complicated, involving weeks and a lot of work. I didn't have the patience to go through with it and I was thankful that God is patient, and that He doesn't give up on my process, even if it takes a ridiculously long time.
Part of the rock tumbler is to have multiple rocks in the drum. Those rocks hit each other and affect the others in the process, just as in life we all affect one another. We are here to help each other in the refinement process, although sometimes we can make it worse, causing deeper chips and grooves in one another. Yet God can take all of our mess and use it to continue refining us throughout our lives.
The first step is a course grind, a hard thick substance is added to chip away big impurities and smooth out major rough points. This is like our big turning points in life, the very large events, both good and bad, which form us into who we are. God often has to use major events to take away our jagged edges, to help us come to the realization that we need Him and cannot do it on our own. This is the initial heart transformation and it is often a huge transformation, yet our full change is not complete yet.
The next phase for the rock tumbler is the fine grit, this is the fine smoothing out of the exterior of the rocks. After we've gotten our major jagged edges smoothed out and our heart is focused on God, this is when God begins to show us other areas in our life that need to be smoothed out. These little areas of our lives are important, but would not have been possible to be smoothed over if we still had the jagged edges. This is part of the constant changing throughout life, becoming more Christ like. As one area gets smoothed out, another area is able to be worked on. If all of them were worked on at once, the rock would break, we would break, so God allows us to take it one step at a time.
If the fine grit wasn't enough, the next step is extra fine grinding, or pre-polishing. As with the fine grinding mentioned before, we are never going to be perfect while we are still in these bodies on Earth, yet as we allow God to work in our lives and smooth us out, we are able to be more finely ground and shaped. Small things in our lives which would have previously be looked over can be dealt with, and most of them are ones that only we ourselves notice. People may look at us and think "that person has it all together" or "that is a 'good' person". Yet we know inside that we are still as in need of a savior as we were when we first began. This extra fine grit will constantly shape and form us throughout the rest of our lives.
After each step, the drum is dirty and needs to be cleaned out. It's a dirty and lengthy business, yet God is patient and willing to work with us through all of it. Finally at the end of the process come the polish. One day, we will receive our final polish and we will be made new, yet through it all, we are beautiful in the eyes of our creator. One day, we will be as He intended us to be.