Sunday, February 24, 2002

Rocks in a Field - One

"Listen! A sower went out to sow. And as he sowed, some seeds fell on the path, and the birds came and ate them up. Other seeds fell on rocky ground, where they did not have much soil, and they sprang up quickly, since they had no depth of soil. But when the sun rose, they were scorched; and since they had no root, they withered away. Other seeds fell among thorns, and the thorns grew up and choked them. Other seeds fell on good soil and brought forth grain, some a hundredfold, some sixty, some thirty. Let anyone with ears listen!" (Matthew 13:3-9)

During the last ice age when the glaciers retreated from the Great Plains in the Dakotas east of the Missouri River, they left gravel, rocks and boulders strewn across the landscape called moraine. When the settlers came, everyone wanted land that was free of this debris, but most of the farmers had to settle for rock strewn fields, some worse than others. It was often the task of the farmer's kids to pick the rocks out of the fields so they could be plowed, a job everyone hated.

Different farmers found different ways to tackle the problem. Some just piled the rocks up in a big pile in the middle or at the edge of the field and worked around them. Others used the rocks as building material for fences while still others dug holes and buried the rocks. This last approach was the least satisfactory because the rocks mysteriously would work their way back up to the surface and have to be buried again. Some ingenious fellow invented a device known as the spring-loaded plow. Then he could just plow right over the rocks and leave them in place. The spring on the axle would simply bounce right off.

Most of us have rocks in our fields and we have a variety of choices about how to deal with them that tell something about our spirituality. We can try to bury them, but they are bound to resurface again at inconvenient times and continue to cause us trouble. A more creative approach is to acknowledge their presence and use our rocks to construct something useful. Troubles can be a source of strength and character building. Resilient personalities learn to let trouble bounce off and keep right on going. We all have our different styles of coping.

Often what matters most is how we think on a problem. If our way of thinking is producing unsatisfactory results, we can step back and think about it from a different angle. If we tell ourselves there is no solution, we have really hit a dead end. Rarely is there no solution to a problem. It's often just a matter of changing how we think. Creative thinking is Tao thinking or Kingdom thinking. Sometimes just sharing our problem with another person will offer us a different perspective.