“Some [seed] fell on rocky places, where it did not have much soil. It sprang up quickly, because the soil was shallow. But when the sun came up, the plants were scorched, and they withered because they had no root.”
Sometimes the glory of G-d happens right in front of me while I’m busy worrying about everything else. I need a second miracle to open my eyes to see it.
For Good Friday services, my church hosts a contemplative service. Lots of candles, quiet music, and prayer stations. Each prayer station is devoted to a particular meditation, usually rooted in a verse or scriptural passage, and often incorporates some small symbolic action or illustrative prop. This year, four of the stations were devoted to the parable of the sower (Matthew 13:3-8), each station focused on one of the four soil types depicted in the story.
I felt drawn to the “rocky soil” table; I almost tingled on the walk over. The table was long, draped in white, candle flames waxing and waning in their slow, liquid way. Piled like a long serpent along the meridian was gravel, mixed with potting soil, and birdseed was scattered along the edges. The meditation guide quoted the scripture (see text above) and then invited us to place a seed among the rocks, reflect on where in our lives we have rocky soil, and give those places over to G-d.
I approached this task with probably more enthusiasm than was decent – there was a fair amount of internal hand-wringing involved. Mentally I prostrated myself dramatically at Jesus’s feet, mewling about my many boulders, asking G-d to open my eyes and show me where they were and to remove them so that I could be cleansed, free, and perfect. While I’m sure G-d wants me to ultimately be cleansed, free, and perfect, my stance at this time was not one of humble surrender to G-d’s most generous grace. Instead, it was an anxious, grasping thirst for self-improvement, so that I could be perfect in my own eyes. I was hoping G-d would send a Sign about the next fix-myself project I should undertake, because in my heart of hearts, I still believe sometimes that it will be my perfection, not Christ’s sacrifice, that will buy my salvation. There is still so much of me that has not yet believed the Good News. I do not yet believe that I don’t need to be perfect (because I am perfectly loved, exactly as I am).
As it turns out, my many remaining boulders were not really what G-d wanted to talk about. When I relaxed enough to be led, it suddenly came to me that this part of the parable was especially applicable to my romantic life. All my past romantic relationships were like seeds cast on rocky soil – quick to flare up into a semblance of maturity, but just as quick to die the minute the going got rough. They had no root. I wouldn’t let them take root. Anything that grew a root was in danger of leading to something resembling commitment, or worse – marriage. I was vigilant about uprooting anything that threatened to take on a degree of permanence.
A brief word here on my background, to put this in context. My parents survived a brutal divorce. I watched it happen. Therefore, I know how bad it can get. I feel about marriage (and, by extension, commitment in general) the way most people feel about being dragged naked with a rope behind a runaway train. Horrifying, excruciating, humiliating, and inescapable without mutilation or death.
Which is why my current relationship is such a bona fide miracle. At the nine-month mark, we exceeded my personal record for longest-stretch-without-breaking-it-off-out-of-sheer-panic. We are now at two and a half years (continuous) and counting – and discussing, yes, the M word.
This is what G-d wanted to talk about. Not what I had yet to improve, but what He had already done. There, right there in front of my eyes, if I had eyes to see, was a clean, deep, fertile place, carved out from the bouldered landscape of my life. Protected by my Shield. And in this precious, sacred space, a tree was (is) growing. Young yet for a tree, but deeply, deeply rooted, able to withstand the burning sun. And I know G-d did this, because I know I couldn’t have. Not in a gazillion years.
Forget the hand-wringing. Time to get off my knees and celebrate!