Just Another Rock In The Pile

My enthusiasm can sometimes surpass my brainpower. I think that’s what happened when I was about 10 years old and I got one of my ‘get-rich-quick-scheme’ ideas. You see where we lived, out in the rolling plains of southwest Kansas there were all these limestone rocks and I thought they were interesting. They came in different sizes and shapes and shades. One I found looked like the shape of the lower 48 states and another I found looked kind of like Abraham Lincoln’s profile on the penny. And I figured if I hauled them to the highway in front of the house and made a sign, “Rocks for Sale” I could make a quick buck. Surely there were people who wanted to buy a limestone rock shaped like one of our presidents.I found our rusty wagon and emptied out my little sister’s doll clothes she had been trying to dress her kitten in and I talked my younger brother in to helping me. I had to tell him I’d give him half of the money. We went up the hill behind our house and filled the old rusty wagon with our inventory. While Tim pulled the wagon towards the driveway I found a rusty, flattened on one side barrel behind the shed. When Tim got his breath back I had him help me roll it up to the top of the ditch in front of the house and we used a couple of our chunkier rocks to keep it from rolling back into the ditch. I picked a plank out from the pile of boards my brothers and I were going to use to add to our tree house and using a couple of my sister’s jump ropes, I tied it to the top of the barrel.We found a piece of cardboard in the basement and using some broken crayons from last year’s school supplies I printed my sign. I grabbed Dad’s hammer and Tim found a couple of nails and using another treehouse board we nailed my sign to it and propped it next to the barrel. By then it was dinner time and we had to go in for our usual Saturday lunch of cornbread and beans. I went in the house and sitting with my siblings I guided the discussion to the proper asking price for rocks. Dan, my older, wiser brother who seemed to know a little bit about everything gave me my first ever economics lesson. “The value of anything is determined by what somebody is willing to pay for it, you see.” He said with an air of a college professor. “Of course…” he paused for dramatic effect, waving his bean covered fork in the air, “It is also determined by what it costs to produce it, or in your case… to drag it to the highway. You see your net profit is your gross sales minus your total costs.”“Huh?” I looked at Dan over my own fork full of beans with a puzzled face. “Why are my sales, gross?”“Not gross like, you know ‘gross’!” He said with some exasperation. “But gross, as in total. You, know…all the money you get.”“Huh?” I asked as I stirred my beans into my soggy cornbread. “But how much should I charge for a rock? Pass the ketchup.”“Well,” Dan said as he slapped the bottom of the ketchup bottle and poured its contents on his pile of beans then shoved the bottle towards me. “Let’s say normally you paid Tim a dollar an hour for working and it took you four hours to drag up all your rocks. The cost of your production would be four dollars.”“I get four dollars?” Tim asked with his ketchup stained grin. “Wait a minute,” I said to Tim, “Dan is just supposin’.” Tim frowned as he reached for the ketchup bottle.“Paul.” My sister said as she picked up a couple of beans she dropped in her lap and ate them. “Paul, where are my doll clothes and my jump ropes and the wagon. Did you move the wagon?”I ignored her.“But how much for a rock?” I asked Dan again.Dan continued, waving his fork in the air, “Well, let’s say you are selling your, ahem, rocks by the highway. And then this lady from Chicago drives by and is willing to pay you five bucks for your rocks. Then your rocks would be valued at five bucks and you made a dollar profit after your labor costs.”“You think I’d only get a dollar for all my rocks?” I asked incredulously.“Depends on what that lady from Chicago is willing to spend on them.” Dan said with a shrug.After dinner and feeling confused and not so enthusiastic I went out to my rock stand by myself. Tim had moved on to more promising adventures and Anna was mad at me for taking her jump ropes. I sat on my little bench my Grandpa had made and waited for that lady from Chicago. I’m sure I only waited for about 20 minutes, but at the time it seemed a lot longer. I rearranged my limestone rock display and decided the one shaped like the lower United States was probably worth the most. Maybe even two dollars, I thought. Or maybe the one that looked like Abraham Lincoln’s head was worth that. But as the cars and trucks rolled by and nobody stopped I began to realize my rocks hadn’t even been worth Tim’s effort to drag them down to the highway and I wished I had my morning back.Towards evening as I rolled the barrel back to where it came from, like Dad told me to and gave my sister back her knotted up jump ropes and doll clothes like Mom told me to, and threw the boards I used back on the treehouse pile and ran to the basement with Dad’s hammer, like he told me to, I began to realize I just wasn’t cut out for the business world. At least I wasn’t much of a salesman. But then rocks just aren’t worth anything, I surmised. Of course that was a few years before the pet rock craze of ‘70’s. I was just ahead of my time, I suppose.Sometimes, I get to feeling like that pile of rocks nobody wanted. I feel worthless and alone. But then I remember my economics lesson.We are worth exactly what the Lord Jesus Christ paid to buy us back from the bondage of sin. He Himself paid an eternal price, giving up His rightful place as God to live a desperately poor life on earth that ended when He poured out His blood for us, taking our sin as His own and alienating Himself from His Heavenly Father for our sake. Some days I might be tempted to feel worthless but when I realize just how much my Lord Jesus Christ paid for me on that cross, an eternally high price, I begin to understand that my value to God is much more than I can ever fathom. And I’m not just another rock in the pile.“When he discovered a pearl of great value, he sold everything he owned and bought it!” Mathew 13.46 NLT.

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