Tucked away in an alcove of pine in Door County, Wisconsin, there is what many consider a treasure. Towers of precariously stacked stones populate this short stretch of shoreline at Lake Michigan’s Cave Point County Park.
Some towers are short and dainty looking, assembled quickly by someone passing through. Other structures clearly showcase much time, effort, and of course, patience. They are miracles of height and structure, balancing at six feet or more.
I visited this shoreline on a cold and windy autumn day. There were no builders in sight, just this evidence that many had been here and worked with their hands. Carefully, I made my way around the towers and down the shore. I wondered what inspires the visitors here to stack stones? What do they gain from building? Could this process of stacking represent anything similar in our own lives? Consider this verse:
Therefore encourage one another and build each other up, just as in fact you are doing. 1 Thessalonians 5:11 NIV
Therefore encourage one another…
In this passage of Scripture “encourage” translates to mean comfort. The apostle Paul wrote this verse in a letter to the Thessalonians who were persecuted for their new Christian faith. Their loved ones were punished and killed daily for their beliefs. In his letter, Paul reminds them to comfort one another and to live knowing their future is secure with those they have lost.
Our problems may not be as dire as the Thessalonians, but we still understand hardship. Everyone has problems, even the people who visited this rocky beach. Perhaps they walked next to the water like I did and tried skipping stones. Maybe seeing the towers around them calmed their spirits or inspired them to build too.
Whatever issues we face, knowing we are not alone helps us cope. Our faith comforts us and helps us comfort others. As companions in faith, our presence can encourage (comfort) others through hardship with compassion, hope, and thoughtfulness.
and build each other up,…
Throughout his letter, Paul likens the members of the church to the parts of a body. Each person or part contributes to the welfare of the whole. His request to “build each other up” means to edify or improve each other intellectually, morally, and spiritually.
Our faith is always growing and in need of tending. We build each other up by praying together, discussing the Bible, and sharing how God touches our lives.
When we work with others, whether it is on faith…or stacking rocks, we soon learn people think and do things differently than we do. Comparing ourselves to others or judging them limits the learning and growth we can gain from them.
In the relaxed setting of these open waters, I imagine strangers building towers side by side. They learn from each other, share balancing tips, laugh, and cheer each other on as yet another huge rock remains in place.
It is not our job to fix or change people, but to build each other up (edify) as a community growing in a faith which benefits us all.
just as in fact you are doing.
In this last part of the Scripture, Paul recognizes the Thessalonians for their supportive efforts. He gives them praise for holding on tightly to faith in the midst of tragic and challenging circumstances.
In today’s stressful and troubled world, confidence in our faith and purpose can become wobbly as well. We question if we are doing the right things for God and struggle to keep our balance.
Taking time to slow down and giving ourselves space to think about how we show up to love others brings meaning and purpose to our lives. For some understanding may come while on a walk, studying the Bible, or looking at the stars. For others, it may come stacking stones on a desolate shore. Paul’s words travel to all those places and more, imploring us to go a little higher.
by Jamie Trunnel
Wandering souls sometimes stack stones.
Marks of patience,
And time free from phones.
Expressing their bliss
With careful luck.
Escaping from problems,
Or calamities which have struck.
What if each placed rock
Represented a problem someone had?
And, the stacking process made him feel…
Not so bad.
Standing back and taking a look
Put things in perspective;
Told him he had what it took.
Life could be organized
And balanced as such.
See all these other souls
Who thought just as much?
We all have problems.
We all struggle.
If we saw others’ towers,
Maybe ours would not crumble.
Standing vulnerably tall
With our problems on display,
Maybe we could all find
And a little less judgement along the way.
Stacking Stones is a poem from my new book Simple Wishes which releases in early September. Be sure to join my email subscriber list to receive upcoming sneak peeks of the book and other special offers!
And Just a Note: Some outdoor enthusiasts consider rock stacks like these an unwelcome reminder of humanity. There are concerns about the natural erosion process and the habitat of insects or mammals which burrow under the rocks. This blog post is not intended to support or discourage rock stacking. 🙂