J. R. Miller, 1909
There is a strange story or tradition of a stone which was originally meant for an important place in the temple—but which was misunderstood and rejected by the builders. When the temple was about to be finished, one stone of peculiar shape was needed to complete it, and this stone could not be found. There was great excitement. "Where is the capstone?" the builders asked. The ceremonies waited, while search was made everywhere for the missing block.
Someone suggested, "Perhaps the stone which the builders condemned and threw away among the rubbish, is the one needed now for the place of honor." It was found and brought, and it fit perfectly. The stone was misunderstood by the builders. It came near being missed altogether, and if it had been there, would have been an unfilled space in the wall and an incomplete building. Continually the same occurs in life.
There are many people who do not seem to fit into any place among people. They do not appear to have ability for anything worth while, to possess qualities which will make them of value to the world. They are not brilliant, or strong, or skillful—nor do they seem likely to do anything to distinguish themselves. Perhaps they seem peculiar, eccentric. Yet later, they develop strength, ability, wisdom, even greatness, and fill important places in the world.
In a recent book, a number of pages are devoted to an account of eminent men for whom in their early years, their friends and teachers predicted failure. They were dullards, not showing any capacity. Afterwards, however, when they found themselves, these men became distinguished. Parents need not be discouraged if children at first seem unpromising, not caring for study. There may be hidden in their brain and heart, possibilities of power which will be brought out in certain circumstances, afterwards fitting them for important duties. God knows what he is doing when he is making men. He never makes one who has no place in the world. Even if it is a broken life, there is some place for it, some work it is specially fitted to do.
This truth is illustrated in life's common relations. There are many who are misunderstood and unappreciated, who do not get their proper requisite of praise and commendation. It is so in many homes. There are men who do not half understand the nobleness of their wives and the delicate beauty of their lives, nor appreciate the worth of self-denials and self-sacrifices which they continually make for their homes, and for those they love. There are many women who receive little commendation, who rarely hear even a kind, approving word—but who are honored by God because of the genuineness of their service and its lowliness and unselfishness. They have not found their true honor on earth—but some day it will be seen that their lives are for high places in the temple of God that is slowly rising.
A great many people everywhere—men as well as women—are not well understood. They have peculiarities which neutralize some of their good qualities. They are uncouth and unattractive in some ways. People do not see the good that is in them, do not value them at their true worth, underestimate and misunderstand them.
Here is a man whom many of his neighbors do not like. Something in his manners offends them, excites in them unkindly thoughts toward him. They say that he is not sincere, that he does not mean what he says. They judge him as lacking the elements of character which are essential to the best and most beautiful life. Yet those who know the man's inner life, are sure that his neighbors are mistaken in their judgment concerning him, that he has in him many good qualities. He is misunderstood. His neighbors' opinion about him are unjust. The best in him, does not appear. He is rejected by the builders as unfit for any place in the temple. He is not to men's tastes—and is thrown aside.
A strong plea should be made for the misunderstood and the unappreciated—and there are many of them. They are not taken into honored places. They are not elected to official positions, named on committees, nor called to act in conspicuous roles. They are left to work in obscurity, rejected by the builders and cast aside. We can do no better service than to become the friends of these who miss human favor and appreciation, to seek to be discoverers of worth and goodness which others overlook, and to strive to bring to recognition and into active, useful service—those who are in danger of being lost, forgotten, passed by and left to failure.
We should pray that we may see people—as God sees them, for he always sees the good, the best in everyone. He sees our possibilities—not what we are today—but what we may become through His grace and love tomorrow. We need to learn to be very patient with people until the worthy in them comes to its best.
Some fruits are not sweet until the late fall. Some people also ripen slowly, and it takes a long time before they become sweet, beautiful, helpful. We should not reject any life, because it is not yet beautiful, because it does not yet seem lovely. Wait and let God train and discipline it in his own way, and some day it may be ready to fill an important place.
The stone which the builders of society would reject as unfit, God may want at length as one of the finest ornaments in his temple. Let us be more patient with people whose faults offend us, who seem unfit or unworthy. Perhaps their faults are only unripenesses, or perhaps they are not faults at all, only peculiarities, which will prove to be elements of strength and beauty when the people find their true recognition. God has a place and a work for everyone. There will be a place by and by, for the misunderstood life; and the stone which the builders despise—God will use to be the head-stone somewhere.
Sometimes it is God himself who is misunderstood. Troubles come into our lives, and we ask, "Is God really always good? Does he indeed never cease to be kind? Does he care? Does he feel with us in our griefs and disappointments? Has he an interest in our lives? If he is our Father and cares—why does he permit us to suffer so?" We are in danger of misunderstanding God, and not accepting the love and care which are in his heart for us.
But God's work with us is not yet finished. We misunderstand it—because we have not yet seen it all. It is not just to criticize a picture—when the artist's work is not completed. Sometimes you read a story, and at the end of a certain chapter, all seems wrong. If the book ended there—you would feel that God was not kind. But there are other chapters yet to come—and as you read on, you learn how good came out of all that seemed hard, even unjust.
Human lives are serial stories. We may tell the bereft one who is questioning the divine goodness in the providence which so emptied her life—that God will stay with her, comfort her, and help her, causing all things to work together for good; and that some day she will find the love which she cannot now see.
If the story of Joseph had closed with the sale of the boy into Egypt, or when he was cast into the dungeon on a false accusation, we could not have claimed that good is the final outcome of God's care. We must finish the story—and then we shall find that there is a Hand which directs all human affairs and brings good out of all evil. Many times we think our circumstances in life, are anything but kindly. It does not seem to us possible that these rough, unfitting things can be built into the temple of our lives as beautiful stones. In our experiences there may be some threatening loss, some bitter trial impending, or some painful thing that has already come upon us—which we feel we cannot possibly build into the perfect temple. Yet this may be the very stone which God had prepared for the most important place in all the building! Some day you will say of it, "The stone which I, the builder, would have rejected, has become the head-stone! This is the Lord's doing, and it is marvelous in my eyes."
Do not reject, then, the experiences of sorrow, pain, and adversity. You do not see how these can become a good, a joy, a blessing in your life. But wait until God has worked out his plan to completion! The divine purpose in all providences, is to make men—and all his making is very good. Doubt not, therefore, that the very stone which to your eye and thought seems so unfit, so unsuitable for building into the temple of your life, God will use to fill an essential place by and by, perhaps to be the chief adornment in your character when complete.
Our Lord in the Gospels used the incident of the rejected stone, as applying to himself. He was the stone which the builders rejected—but which God made to be the corner-stone. The rulers had a mistaken idea of the Messiah. They thought he would be a mighty earthly king, who would free them from their subject condition and make them a great nation that should conquer the whole world. They had not learned the sacrificial idea of the Messiah, given in such prophecies as the fifty-third chapter of Isaiah. So when Jesus came, lowly, meek, loving, unresisting, they did not believe that he was the promised Messiah and would not accept him. They misunderstood him.
There are many people today, who do not approve of Christ. They do not like his way of helping and saving. They do not think he is the Friend they need. The life to which he invites them, does not attract them. They do not think he can lead them to the best things, the best character, the deepest joy, the truest usefulness.
In the tradition, there came a day when one particular stone was needed, must be had, or the building would not stand complete. Then the stone which had been despised, which had been thrown away, proved to be the only one that would fit and fill the place. The teaching is simple and plain. Men despise and reject Jesus Christ—but there will come a time when no one but Christ will fit into their soul's need.
For example, Saul did not think that Jesus was the Messiah. He was sincere and conscientious in his persecution of him. He regarded him as an impostor and rejected him. He sought to destroy all who believed on him. He thought he was pleasing God in his persecutions. One day near Damascus he had a wonderful vision. He saw a divine Being shining in heavenly glory. He was startled, amazed, and fell to the earth. "Who are you, Lord?" he asked. "I am Jesus," was the answer. Instantly Saul saw that Jesus was no impostor—but the Son of God. He accepted him now as the Messiah. From that moment Jesus took the supreme place in Saul's life. The stone which the builders rejected, became the corner-stone, the glory of his life, the hope of his soul.
They only misunderstand Christ, who think he is not all they need. Your life will always be incomplete, unfinished, until Christ is received into his own place in it.