April 21, 2011 | The Rev. Dr. Scott Stoner
"The Ground Begins To Soften"†† † I wrote about my aging fatherís health issues six weeks ago, and today I am saddened to share the news that my father passed away this week at the age of 88. While this is a very sad time for me and my family, it is also a holy and sacred time, filled with many loving memories. Times like these create a softness in our hearts and souls, which in turn allows for deep and loving connections with one another, and for this I am grateful. I am also grateful for the way my father died. The slow progression of his cancer the last several months softened his heart and soul as well, creating an opportunity for us all to draw closer.
†† † My experiences over the last several months, and this week especially, reminded me of a previous column I had written about Easter and Passover. Given the softening of my heart, and of the hearts of all who loved my Dad, these thoughts are especially fitting for us this year. I hope you find them meaningful as well.
†† † † † † † † † ďThe Ground Begins to SoftenĒ
†† † This is indeed a holy week as Jews celebrate Passover and Christians celebrate Easter. Both holidays (holy days) are a celebration of new beginnings, of movement from bondage to freedom, from death to life. All around us this time of year, there are abundant signs of rebirth: buds on the trees, robins returning, and bunnies and eggs every where we turn.
†† † For me though, there is always a sign that is the most meaningful indicator of new life this time of year, and that is that the ground begins to soften. First the snow melts, and then gradually the ground that has been hidden all winter begins to soften. I love being able to move my runs off the concrete sidewalks and on to the soft earth which provides welcome cushioning to my aching back. Softening ground is wet ground this time of year and I love the squishing sound that my shoes make with every step I take. The softer ground means that soccer season, and baseball season are not far away, and also that the grass will soon turn green and flowers will begin to emerge. The softer earth gives rise to so many miraculous expressions of new life.
†† † Soft ground will probably never replace bunnies and eggs as a sign of new life. Itís hard to imagine how Hallmark or Walgreenís could market the image of the ground softening. But I offer you this image because I think it such a great metaphor for what real resurrection, what real escape from bondage looks and feels like. I know because I see it in my office every day, in my work as a pastor and a therapist.
†† † People usually come to see me for counseling because life has become hard for them. Literally. They come in with hearts, minds, souls and even bodies that have become hardened and rigid. They come alone or they come with their loved one or they bring their whole family because everyone has become hardened to each other. This hardness is usually the result of frozen sadness or hurt, or unresolved conflict or grief and the hardness has built up over a long period of time.
†† † Why have they come? Because deep down, they donít want to be hard-hearted, or hard-minded, or hard-spirited, towards themselves or towards the people they love most. Deep down, a small, still voice longs for something different. And because they are willing to listen to this longing, slowly, imperceptibly at first, a miracle begins to happen. The ground begins to soften. And just as when the earth begins to soften, when the heart/mind/soul begins to soften there is lots of moisture, lots of tears.
†† † The softening heart/mind/soul, just like the softening earth, soon gives rise to all kinds of miraculous new life. People forgive each other and they forgive themselves. People touch and hug and make love who havenít done so for a long time. There is laughter where once there was criticism. There is joy where there once was shame and guilt. There is freedom where there once was bondage. There is life where there once was death.
†† † Whether you celebrate Easter, Passover or simply the new life that is Spring, my wish for you is the abundance of new life that comes when that which has been hardened begins to soften.
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