A dozen years ago, after a visit to a distant friend, she sent a parcel.
“What’d you forget?” the Preacher asked. (I lose things easily. Even my head, sometimes.)
“Nothing!” I said, ripping the wrappings. Inside, nested in creamy packing material, lay a meticulously crafted stone Inuksuk, arms outspread.
Precariously balanced piles of rocks of any size, often roughly resembling a pointing human form, Inuksuit (the plural form of the Inuit word) traditionally serve as directional markers in the Canadian Arctic. The Inuit need them. The North has few natural landmarks, but these stone figures point the way across barren tundra.
The symbols have spread far beyond the Arctic as ornaments, jewelry, and collectibles. I didn’t have one myself at the time, but I’ve since acquired several and built far more. We even have a game that requires the participants to build Inuksuit from small rocks.
The stone markers fascinate me. When walking with the grandbeans, we often pause at a good rock patch to build one. “Uksuk,” the little one who walked with me one day responded when I suggested we stop. I held out my hand. Working in my palm, he managed to balance nearly all the stones. But just as he added the head, the creature toppled. He reached for the rocks, and carefully put each one in his red metal wagon.
“How ‘bout we glue it together at your house later, okay?” I said.
“Later,” came the echo.
The gift and that little walk with my grandbean got stuck in my soul. Okay, Lord, I prayed, what is it about Inuksuit? The answer came after reflection. Just as the wise men of long ago slogged across miles of desert, following the star that would lead them to the Messiah, we too, search for way-pointers. Life’s tundra, barren and cold, demands them—else we lose our way.
The world is rife with stars, all guiding travelers to something. Not sky stars. Shining people, smarter, wiser, better positioned than ourselves; loudly pointing the way to the places we strive toward. People with best-selling books, six-figure salaries and huge followings on social media. But too many of those lights are extinguished by a blast of revelatory information about hidden pasts or current corruption, leaving us disappointed and without direction.
Every time I look at my own Inuksuit, I realize something . God’s best way-pointers (other than His Word and the Holy Spirit) are people like that. People with a few hard edges and lives that sometimes seem precariously balanced. People whose heads get scattered every now and then; whose parts need regular reinforcing, even reassembling with the glue of God’s word and ways. People who, even as they point the way for others are intensely aware that God holds all their broken pieces in his palm, preparing for permanent assembly at his house. Later.
Our broken Savior, I think, is best reflected in Inuksuk people.