Tending the stones in the garden

Published 7:00 am Saturday, October 29, 2016

“Geezum!” exclaimed Fred as he gazed upon the recurrent difficulties of the ground which lay before him. In spite of his diligent labors, the problem kept coming back, again and again. He had toiled in the humid heat of many summers, labored in the chilly spring and fall seasons, while designing his plans for perfection in the winter doldrums. His quest was singular and well-intentioned, for his home avocation was as a gardener.

Fred was well educated, having graduated from Old Miss with a degree in economics. He was well respected by his peers, subordinates and friends. Precise to a fault, given to analyzing every challenge and finding a solution, this dilemma had him stumped. “No matter what I do, no matter who I talk to, or what I read, nothing helps. It just seems as I am not growing vegetables, or flowers. I am just growing stones,” said the frustrated horticulturist to himself. “Even with bringing in a truckload of topsoil, those darned rocks just keep coming back up to the top.”

Stooping down to the loam, Fred, as he had many times before, picked up several hockey puck sized rocks from the neatly tilled furrow. He then threw them towards a burgeoning pile of similar detritus. At the same time, the cellphone began ringing in his shirt pocket.

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Answering, the familiar voice of his wife relayed, “Honey, I just got a call from Pastor Luneux who wants to stop by. He said he has something to drop off for you.” “OK,” Fred said, “tell him to come on, but I’ll need a few minutes to clean up.”

Slowly meandering back to the house, and preparing for the Pastor, the anxious man felt himself relax, as the warm waters of the shower were a cleansing cathartic to his frustration. Soon dressed in fresh clothes, the refreshed husband greeted his wife, Lucy, with a smile and a quick peck on the cheek. “Wow,” said Lucy, “that’s better.

When you went upstairs, you were really in a foul mood. “Yes, I know,” Fred replied, “but those rocks in the garden have me really puzzled. Oh well, they will have to wait.”

About an hour later, the noise of tires upon gravel entered the open windows.

Fred and Lucy stood up and greeted their new arrival at the door. “Pastor Luneux, how good to see you. Let me get you some sweet tea,” said Lucy. “Thanks,” replied the Pastor, as Fred and the frequent guest ambled into the living room.

After making a bit of small-talk, the Pastor began, “You know, I can tell how frustrated you have been with your garden. This is no small thing, what you do. Your garden is so big, and it produces far more than either you, or Lucy, can use. Your generosity towards the folks at our church, and the food bank, are legendary.

“Make no mistake, what you are doing is a good thing, as God directs us to do.”

“These stones are a real challenge. They are not unlike the challenges of sinful behavior, which arise, seemingly no matter what we try to do about it.

“We may try to cover them up with a sense of pride, or a thin veneer of faith, but in the end they seem to regularly return,”

“As Jesus Christ told us, in His parable about the sower and the seed, there is good ground which is with Him, and that other ground where the seeds falter and perish. What you are doing, is, as He does for us, removing the stones within to keep the good, so that we may grow and prosper.

While there may be no easy answer for removing the stones within your earthly garden, perhaps you may look upon them as God’s plan to remind you of the necessity of constantly nurturing the good soil to enjoy His abundance and His grace.”

The Pastor reached into his jacket pocket and removed a single piece of paper. “Fred,” he intoned, “here is a bit of Scripture from Matthew, Chapter 13, which may help. It is from when our Lord was gathering enemies and where he began to use parables to relay His messages for the curious and believers. This is what I wanted to bring to you today.”

After the Pastor’s departure, Fred went out to his garden. Surveying the scene, through new eyes, he bent down and picked up another of the ever-present stones. This time, he gave the object a quick kiss and shouted, “One less sin!” and threw it on the rejection pile.

By Fr. Jonathan J. Filkins