The Nouwen Challenge, pt. 3 (rocks and pebbles)

Howdy. I’ve not gotten a chance to blog since early last week thanks to a crazy, crazy work life at work. I’m afraid that it’s going to be that way for a few months – bummer. For those of you following or participating in the Nouwen challenge, I must admit that it’s had a rocky start for me. I found that I really have enjoyed those moments of silence with God, but if I’m even slightly sleepy (and thanks to work, I’ve been exhausted), I tend to drift into half-sleep unless I’m meditating on some thought… a thought of thanks, a scripture to meditate on, or even just thinking about who God is. Even then, I’ve been a little distracted. Empyting my mind has proven tough, but meditating on something God-related has proven to be more fruitful. The key for me will be to make regular time for this, which I intend to do.

The bigger learning for me relates back to that old story about the rocks in the jar. Heard that one? If not, skip down and check it out. Each of us must ask ourselves, when work takes up more and more of our time – or in other words, when we’re dealt a rock that we can’t easily shove in the jar – how will we fit the rest of what’s important to us in there? I’ve been trying to fit a lot of very large rocks into my jar and the result has been a lack of sleep and lot of harried evenings and weekends. The jar can only get so big without breaking. So, I’ve determined that some God time (in the form of some quiet mediation) and family time are the biggest rocks. Work is a rock that can’t be avoided, and church and other charitable activities are big ones too. Beyond that, my hobbies (including blogging, I’m afraid), the gazillion projects around the house, the stack of books on the night stand, and even the hockey blogs predicting what will happen when free agency starts tomorrow will just need to be fit in where they can. I’ll still be blogging, but probably not every day (but maybe the quality will go up as the quantity goes down!). In the end, my inability to enjoy the Nouwen Challenge helped me to see something bigger (praise God!).

One more thought about that big rock called work. Someone once told me that a good way to order your life is to look at it from the end and work back. What do we really want to accomplish while we’re here? Since work is a rock that we can’t avoid and it will take up a big portion of that jar whether we like it or not, it’s confirmation for me that work isn’t just a way to get the bills paid, it’s part of the ministry that the Lord gives us. We need to treat it as such. Along with our family, “work” contains the details – the who, the what and the where – of how we might bring a little light into the lives of others.

‘Till next time…


A high school science teacher wanted to demonstrate a concept to his students. He takes a large-mouth jar and places several large rocks in it. He then asks the class, “Is it full?

“Unanimously, the class reply, “Yes!”

The teacher then takes a bucket of gravel and pours it into the jar. The small rocks settle into the spaces between the big rocks.

He then asks the class, “Is it full?”

This time there are some students holding back, but most reply, “Yes!”

The teacher then produces a large can of sand and proceeds to pour it into the jar. The sand fills up the spaces between the gravel.

For the third time, the teacher asks, “Is it full?

“Now most of the students are wary of answering, but again, many reply, “Yes!”

Then the teacher brings out a pitcher of water and pours it into the jar. The water saturates the sand. At this point the teacher asks the class, “What is the point of this demonstration?”

One bright young student raises his hand and then responds, “No matter how full one’s schedule is in life, he can always squeeze in more things!”

“No,” replies the teacher, “The point is that unless you first place the big rocks into the jar, you are never going to get them in. The big rocks are the important things in your life …your family, your friends, your personal growth. If you fill your life with small things, as demonstrated by the gravel, the sand, and the water…you will never have the time for the important things.

So, what are the “Big Rocks” in your life? Spending time with your children, your parents or your spouse? Taking the seminar or class to get the information and perspective you need to succeed? Making the time to set goals, plan or evaluate your progress? When you are hassled because there is no time, remember the story about the Big Rocks and the Jar!

Author Unknown



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