There was once a man, Ross, who had become encased in rock. It was very difficult for him to get around, but he could, just about move. But so encrusted was his stony armour he could neither see nor hear, nor taste, smell or even feel anything.
Almost driven mad by his condition he tried to rid himself of the stony skin. As he could hardly move this was impossible. Nevertheless he tried various means, which all failed. Recognising that he needed help he turned to his fellows, but eventually realised they too were in a similar predicament. Unfortunately he discovered they were not only like himself, but most of them felt this was normal. Their only means of communication was collision and pounding each other, which left much unsaid. But at least he discovered his help was not from that direction.
Then one day Ross remembered, in his agony and delirium, something he had heard as a child, before this sickness came upon him. His mother had told him that if one called upon God, and waited patiently, help would come.
Not knowing what else to do, and being a desperate man, he cried out within his shell for God to help him. God, who had been ever-present, awaiting this very request, took a saw and began to cut at the rock.
However, not being able to feel or hear anything, and soon growing impatient at the apparent lack of response, the man began to wail and walk around again, which made it impossible for God to continue his attempt to free him. Fortunately, God, with great difficulty, was at this point able to cause him to walk and collide with another rock bound man who had also several times cried out for God’s aid. God was able to arrange this collision by either putting obstacles in his way or pushing him off balance until he walked in the right direction. The man, not guessing the causes, thought life had become even more difficult and worse sickness was being visited on him.
But by battering each other until sparks flew, the two shared experiences, as well as they might. Ross told his new friend, Francis, his problems and his experiment with God. And it was with great emotion he received Francis reply, saying he too had made the experiment, and felt sure there was something happening.
At this point Ross explained that in his own experiment nothing had happened. Francis replied that he had felt the same at first, but finding no other answer, had continued frequently even in the face of what seemed to be failure. And although he was still uncertain, it did seem as if he could move about a little easier. In fact, unknown to Francis, God had been able to chip and cut quite a lot of the rock away from him.
“Let us do the experiment together” Ross suggested, as he was much heartened by what Francis had said. So, for some time they sat quietly, having called for God’s help.
Not limited as are mortals, God worked upon them both, wishing to deliver his beloved children from their plight as soon as possible. Again, he sawed away at Ross’s mountain of masonry, and with Francis, he worked on his encased left leg, which was now only lightly covered. Towards the end the stone was becoming so thin Francis could feel the hammer blows as God chipped carefully at his stone prison, and Francis amazed and alight with wonder, cried out, “ I can feel something! Something is happening.” And thinking at first he had come to the desired end, he rose up again and cried out “ I have found God”. But straightaway he fell over a nearby tree root and quieted down again, realising he had not found God, but perhaps God had begun to find him.
Meanwhile, not quite knowing what was going on, but vaguely aware of Francis crashing thunderously to the ground, Ross thought he felt something. Indeed he had been aware of the slight vibration caused by the saw on his outer crust. But it was so vague a feeling he was not sure whether he had imagined it or it was real.
Stumbling around looking for Francis, and Francis thundering around looking for him, they both disturbed God’s work again. When they managed to describe to each other what had occurred, it was a strength to them both, and Francis was able to confirm he had at one point had a similar experience to Ross. Although in point of fact it was all very unclear to both of them what each one was trying to describe, due to the grossness of their communication.
At this point they lost contact with each other, an easy thing to do in a sensationless dark world, and Ross continued his quest alone.
Despite the agony of indecision he experienced as to whether what he now sometimes felt was imagined or real, he remained faithful to the promise he had made himself to see this thing through. He too, like Francis, began to feel lighter, but couldn’t help himself wondering whether Francis words and his own feverish hope had played a trick on him. Indeed, his hope and despair tore him so much he had to put them both aside lest they turn him from his aim. Thus daily he sat in his wordless prayer, patiently waiting he knew not what, putting away hope and despair as well he could. For at the slightest sign of the sawing, hope would blaze up in him. But when he could not detect the sensation despair would mock the hope, and hope would pain so much it was unbearable and nearly made him give up his quest and hope to die.
Then one day, as he offered himself to God, some years having passed since he began, there came a new experience to him. Over the years, God had gradually thinned the rocky prison, cutting off great areas of rock. Care had been needed lest the rock had sundered too soon while still too heavy, and pierced the soft body it encased. So much weight had dropped off him, Ross knew God was working on him, even though God was still an abstraction. But this day, God could begin in earnest to break his shell, and began pounding with a hammer and chisel on the rock over Ross chest and legs. Then, for Ross, there was never any doubt ever again about God’s existence. But so great were the blows he began to have pains in his chest and thighs. “God is trying to kill me,” he thought, and arose in fear.
Having over the years begun to understand his condition however, he thought over his pains, and saw them as a necessity in the removal of his burden. But it was with some trepidation he next offered himself to God.
This time God worked on the rock covering his head, and Ross soon had a terrible headache, and felt sure he was going insane. None of the other people he had met had ever experienced anything like this. Only the mad, talked about such things. Was his journey and quest really his mind breaking under the strain of existence? Should he have accepted the reality of his encased existence and remained ‘normal’ like everybody else? Perhaps it was not too late even now to draw back from the terrible brink which seemed to yawn before him. God, freedom, prayer, were these all the aims of a mad mind, a weak mind, unable to accept the everyday reality of the human, rock-bound situation.
Ross struggled and struggled within himself, wrestling with these questions. A terrible turmoil raged in him, yet beyond all the fear and indecision there seemed to be something which urged him to continue. And the same calm something said, “Is not your experience overall a healing one and not a destructive one? Despite the present discomforts, is your burden not becoming lighter? Are you not aware of more than you ever were before, except when a child?”
And Ross agreed within himself that this was true, and his fears were but dark shadows, which, when he actually examined them, disappeared. So, again with trepidation but resolve, he came to God. And God broke away the prison from one of Ross’ hands. And God held that naked hand and pressed it to his lips, and Ross wept.
Then one day, the stone coffin fell away from Ross entire, and he saw God face to face. Naked and unashamed, with love he stood before him, and they embraced, flesh to flesh, and walked away to free others.