Theology in the Trenches: Stepping Stones

Kathleen Kjolhaug
Religion Columnist

“I am a stepping stone!” The words flew from the mouth of a friend who’d been stepped upon. She had been wounded. Grappling with her lot in life, she was waving the white flag in surrender. She was allowing herself to acknowledge, before the Lord, that she was willing to live as a stepping stone.

“Remember,” replied one nearby. “Stepping stones are just that. Although stepped upon, they do not get pushed under. Beneath that stone is solid ground. You are merely giving others a boost and a little sure footedness upon which to stand.”

Truth is, being used as a stepping stone is an honorable calling. After all, those stepping along are often looking for support. Who wouldn’t want to be a part of that?

It’s the doormat dumping that tends to be the backbreaker. Take pause for a moment as I explain with the following true story.

Many years ago, in the middle of a very difficult year of teaching, one parent walked into their child’s conference with a gift for me. As I unfurled the rolled up object, it soon took the shape of a door mat. She must have heard the rumblings from those who were grumbling because as she looked into my eyes, her words were like balm to my wounded heart.

“The next time those other mamas come into your room, you simply direct them to the doormat and tell them, ‘That’s the doormat, I’m the teacher.’”

As we broke into laughter, I soon recognized that the main gift wasn’t the doormat, but rather the acknowledgement that she had my back. She was a stepping stone in my life during a time when I desperately needed one on which to find my footing. 

As I journeyed through this season of my life, she offered me perspective from a kinder and gentler set of eyes … namely, hers.

Easy it is to see when we’re being used; we feel the pain while others wipe their feet and even dig in a cleat or two. Less likely it is to know when we are to being used as a stepping stone.

 One just never knows when respite is needed by another and that the buoyancy we offer is just enough to get them over to more solid ground.

Lord, my prayer today is that You find me worthy of use. For doormat could also be a gateway … a point of entry. It welcomes. Being used as a stepping stone appears to be a more palatable role, but the reality is, You allowed Yourself to be used not only as a doormat, a point of entry, but even as a whipping post … in the most literal sense of the word. For us you did this. Thank You for modeling it not only with Your obedience to the Father, but also doing so with Grace … which is poured out to all mankind.

To God be the glory, both now and forever. Amen.

(Kathleen Kjolhaug is a religion columnist.)