One of the expressions used to describe me in my younger days was that my head was as hard as a rock. This was said usually as I had just bumped my noggin on something or when my inability to accept change or instruction hindered my direction or actions. Of course we all know how hard a rock is and in our lifetime we have seen many advantages to rocks being hard as they make good stone for our driveways and they build strong foundations and walls, like our new church exterior wall. But in the farming community when they are anchored in the field they waste fertile space and add an obstacle to the farmer as he orders or prepares the ground for useful seed.
In my early years as a teenager my Uncle Bob purchased a farm with no well and a lot of rocks! I remember one day he hired a fellow to come over and drill a hole in some of these rocks and place a stick of dynamite in the hole. He then covered the area with old tires and distanced himself and us far enough away from what was going to happen, and then kaboom, tires and little rocks and a dust cloud lifted up in the air. Well that is how Uncle Bob eliminated his big rocks from his fertile soil! He simply made big rocks into little rocks and dust and moved them out of the way.
As far as my head being as hard as a rock, it still has areas needing improvement. Over the years there have been some explosive life episodes for me that have helped me remove and diminish some of my rocks. For the most-part, it takes a lot of work and a real effort to change these behaviors into fertile soil. But in my slothfulness, I still have more boulders that need to be crushed and moved aside. Well, maybe tomorrow!
But here is the problem with my rock-head! Amongst the rocks in between my ears, there are an abundance of weeds. It seems the weeds thrive there. The rocks give these weeds safe haven and the weeds choke my fertile seeds of salvation that have no room or moisture to root. Worthless weeds of anger, pride, lust and envy always seem to be rooted deep amongst these rocks, sucking away my energies that should have been used to build the Kingdom of God. Listen to these directions from a most-powerful saint: “You cannot be too gentle, too kind. Shun even to appear harsh in your treatment of each other. Joy, radiant joy, streams from the face of him who gives and kindles joy in the heart of him who receives. All condemnation is from the devil. Never condemn each other. We condemn others only because we shun knowing ourselves. When we gaze at our own failings, we see such a swamp that nothing in another can equal it. That is why we turn away, and make much of the faults of others. Instead of condemning others, strive to reach inner peace. Keep silent, refrain from judgment. This will raise you above the deadly arrows of slander, insult and outrage and will shield your glowing hearts against all evil.” (St. Seraphim of Sarov)
Just as Uncle Bob used dynamite to transform his fields, we Christians can use some powerful tools as well to eliminate our rocks! Let us consider the benefits of fasting, the consequences of disobedience, and call to mind our fallen state. We are invited to cleanse ourselves of evil through fasting and obedience to God. Our fasting should not be a negative thing or a mere abstention from certain foods. It is an opportunity to free ourselves from the sinful desires and urges of our fallen nature rooted amongst the rocks, and to nourish our souls with prayer, repentance, participation in church services, and partake of the life-giving Mysteries of Christ. The Good Seed needs nourishment! [Lk. 8:6]
Our daily prayers should help us look inward and outward as we remove the dust from our vision and see all of God’s creation clearly. And with all of these efforts and the by the grace of God, we can use those remnants of stone to pave a road for us and others to salvation. Saint Seraphim of Sarov reminds us: “Acquire a peaceful spirit, and thousands around you will be saved.”