A holy and happy hermit came to the outskirts of a village and settled down under a tree for the night. He got out his Bible and was about to say his prayers, which he always prayed in Jesus’ name, when a villager suddenly came running up to him and exclaimed, “The stone! The stone! Give me the precious stone!”
“What stone?” asked the hermit.
“Last night an angel appeared to me in a dream,” explained the villager, “and he told me that if I went to the outskirts of the village at dusk I’d find a hermit who would give me a precious stone that would make me rich forever.”
The hermit rummaged in his bag and pulled out a stone. “Is this the stone that you’re looking for?” he asked. “I found it on a forest path some days ago. You can have it.”
The man gazed at the stone in wonder. It was a diamond as large as a person’s fist! It was probably the largest diamond in the whole world! He grabbed it and hurried home, holding the treasure close to his heart.
That night the villager clutched his precious stone as he went to bed, but all night he tossed about, unable to sleep. He kept thinking about the diamond and the hermit.
Before dawn he jumped out of bed and ran back to the hermit. He found him sleeping peacefully under the tree. He shook him awake, crying out, “I don’t want the diamond! I don’t want the diamond! Here, take it back. Instead, teach me how to pray so I can have the kind of riches that makes it possible for you to give this diamond away so freely.”
Which Stone Do You Want?
The Precious Stone is an old story from an anonymous source (I modified it from the versions I found). Perhaps it goes all the way back to the Desert Fathers who in the 3rd and 4th Centuries lived as hermits, spending most of their time in solitude and silence with Jesus, and came out for spiritual community or to give spiritual direction to pilgrims. Consider with me what God might be saying to us through this incredible parable…
The key question of spiritual direction in this parable is, “Which stone do you want?” It’s another way of asking the question Jesus often asked, “What do you want me to do for you?” (Matthew 20:32, Mark 10:36 and 51)
The villager went back to the hermit because he realized he had asked for the wrong stone! He got the world’s largest diamond to make him rich, but it made him squinty-eyed in greed and overwhelmed with anxiety — it was ruining his life. He had misinterpreted the angel’s message in his dream. He asked the hermit for a precious stone, but he hadn’t asked for the Precious Stone, which is Jesus Christ!
From the hermit the villager learned what true riches are. Jesus had a hold of the hermit’s heart so even when he had nothing in this world except the clothes on his back, food for the day, and a small bag he knew that he was rich! So when he found the huge diamond he simply dropped it in his bag and left it there, never putting it in his heart. He didn’t need the diamond because he was happy in Jesus.
Who do you share the longings of your heart with? Who do you confess your sins to? Who helps you to “take heart” to live for Jesus and be happy in him?
The Precious Stone teaches us that each of us need at least one Christ’s ambassador who offers us the ancient art of spiritual direction. A spiritual director helps us to stay attuned with God and his loving purposes in the midst of daily life with its tedium, stress, pain, and injustice. (We also need to be Christ’s ambassador to others! 2 Corinthians 5:20) Your Christ’s ambassador could be a spiritual director like the hermit was for the villager. Or it could be a pastor, counselor, spiritual coach, sponsor, small group leader, or soul friend.
If you’re in ministry you especially need to be receiving spiritual direction and care from someone! Many ministers try to shepherd others without being shepherded, but it’s deadly for their souls. By refusing to be vulnerable with someone they respect they end up living more and more out a false self. They may think they’re trusting God, but probably they’re becoming more and more emotionally distant from him. Depression is likely — maybe burnout or a moral blow out.
If you’re hiding your real self from others (and probably God too) don’t wait until your life and ministry have eroded further. Find a Christ’s ambassador and seek the soul care or spiritual direction that you need.