I found it three or four years ago, just barely showing above the surface of the ground back in the wooded area of my yard. I had begun a search for rocks to use as a border that would guide one toward a resting spot I was making in the trees where once stood a playhouse. The rocks in our yard, for the most part are anywhere from the size of a croquet ball to a bowling ball. Occasionally, I have found ones the diameter of a beach ball and weighing as much as 75-100 pounds. But, this one was different. I took my shovel and began to move the dirt away from the edges. After just a few minutes I realized it was more than I was looking for. It was too big, so I moved on to something more manageable.
The leaves fell and winter came and I forgot about that behemoth under the surface. I had managed to find plenty of smaller rocks to satisfy my path needs for the time. During the next season of “yard work” I’d pass that bump in the ground as I tromped through the woods without much thought except, “that one is too big”. Another season passed and the rock was hardly noticeable at all…forgotten even. Leaves had fallen and decayed, creating a layer of humus that was soft and spongy and able to hide what was big and hard and ancient. I had no desire for that rock, much less the energy to go after it even if I wanted to. So there it remained for another year. What was one more year added to the millions it had already been is existence. Besides, life was too hard and complex to turn my attention to trying to expose an inanimate rock, much less try to excavate it. I had more personal rocks to deal with.
But this season has been different. I don’t even know why I went back. Why did I take my shovel and start the process again? Why did I want to uncover a rock I knew I would not be able to move? But I did go back. I did start moving the dirt, cutting the roots that had grown over the top, trying to find the bottom. I grew impatient of course and had to move on to rocks I could move and there seemed to be more of those than I’d ever seen before on my property. I thought I had removed them all long ago. It was as though they were rising to the surface from a deep hidden place within the earth. I needed to feel like I was accomplishing something after digging around that big one, so I’d work on the smaller stones, ones easily removed by only a few jumps on the shovel. But, I kept going back to the big one. Why?
I read entries on a forum on the web written by others more experienced in the practice of moving rocks weighing many times their own weight. The one entry that captured my attention began with a whole paragraph on patience. Often my best friend has said that patience has never been one of my gifts. Patience, for me, has, at best been a discipline. I must be intentional to practice patience in the same way one unskilled must practice to learn to play the piano. The process is not always pleasant. Working patiently to unearth this rock unearthed more than I could imagine. And my mind has been busy with images and reflections on my life as I see the parallels between “soul” work and rock excavation.
“In this world you will have trouble”...a state of mental distress; worry…a misfortune; calamity, mishap…a distressing or difficult happening or situation…a condition of being out of order, needing repair, etc. … a person, circumstance, or event that causes annoyance, distress, difficulty, etc. (Webster’s New World Dictionary) “BUT, Take heart! I have overcome the world".
Prior to these words that Christ spoke to His disciples during their last meal together, He spent time talking to them about His death to come and the grief they would experience. He described that grief as being like the pain experienced in childbirth. Their grief would be real and inescapable. Grief is the cry that expresses our instinctive recognition that something is not right, is out of order or simply not the way it is supposed to be. Grief screams over the loss of what was and for what should be. In this world you will have trouble. “But, take heart! I have told you these things so you may have peace.”
Christ spoke these words to his friends. Then He prayed for them. He had given them everything the Father had given Him. BUT, Father…“They are still in the world…protect them…the world has hated them…My prayer is not that you take them out of the world…but that you protect them….May they be brought to complete unity to let the world know that you sent Me…in order that the love you have for me may be in them…”
Christ was always looking beyond what the disciples could comprehend. He spoke hard words and called them out of the hard small places of their worldly existence. He was going to dig the dirt from around their lives and lifted them up to a new place of freedom. He was not going to fix things, He was going to make all things new. He was going to die and be buried. He was showing them the way. He knew how hard it would be. He knew they would not be able to understand. He knew the rock of truth would be put into the ground for what would seem to be eternity. But, He also knew that that rock would be raised. And He knew that the men he had lived with would then see and believe and in faith would be brought to complete unity and that unity would be the voice of testimony that the love that began the whole process was in them.
When Jeannie and Jerry came to visit the other weekend they eagerly and sacrificially followed me through the poison ivy to my rock still deep in the ground. They thought they were coming to paint but were willing to do whatever I wanted. So, we dug, we pried, we braced, we rocked, and we sweated. We worked together for a couple of hours at least. The whole I time I felt joy in their fellowship and humbled by the fresh revelation of what community means. It was our unity that eventually brought that rock from its hiding place. I could not have done it alone. Alone, my strength would fail. But, with the joining of 3 points of view, 3 sets of hands working from different angles, 3 bodies working toward the same goal, the new “body” we formed through our efforts made it possible to do what was impossible.
Perhaps, this was one way Christ meant it when He said “Take heart! I have overcome the world.” We are His body. In the strength of life as His body, we come to understand what He meant when He said He has overcome. We live out His life as we live in that unity He asked for the Father to give us. It is in the community of believers, living together in concert, humbly accepting the necessity of the lives of others to bring forth our true selves, that we unearth the mystery of our own and collective humanity.