Matthew 13: 1-9
“That same day Jesus went out of the house and sat beside the lake. 2Such great crowds gathered around him that he got into a boat and sat there, while the whole crowd stood on the beach. 3And he told them many things in parables, saying: ‘Listen! A sower went out to sow. 4And as he sowed, some seeds fell on the path, and the birds came and ate them up. 5Other seeds fell on rocky ground, where they did not have much soil, and they sprang up quickly, since they had no depth of soil. 6But when the sun rose, they were scorched; and since they had no root, they withered away. 7Other seeds fell among thorns, and the thorns grew up and choked them. 8Other seeds fell on good soil and brought forth grain, some a hundredfold, some sixty, some thirty. 9Let anyone with ears* listen!’”
“We’ve been travelin’ on the rocky ground, rocky ground,” Springsteen’s background singers croon out sweetly on his latest album. Even though I’ve been listening to that album over and over during my commute and other times (grading papers, writing, now), there are other reasons I’m thinking about rocky ground.
I’m still spending time this week thinking “what if my life never changed,” and I’m enjoying that focus–I have so many blessings. Here’s one thing that thrills me–I’ve made a life where I get to spend a lot of time reading, much of it work related, but not all. Where do I get time to do reading for fun? As I confessed on Monday, I average about 40 hours of work a week. But we also don’t have cable, so there’s not a whole lot of TV viewing in my schedule. Lots and lots and lots of book time.
But one of the reasons I was motivated to take a hard, blessing-laser-look at my life is that it seems to me the universe has been telling me no a fair bit lately. Lots of yes, sure, but NO sometimes when I was really hoping for yes. Everything from applying for a UW System position that would’ve meant a chance to work with some amazing people AND get a course release to do it, to getting published, to getting a course approved for a particular degree designation for students. No. No. No. A few others as well–no, no, no.
Yesterday it wasn’t “no,” but it was furrowed brows and pursed lips and blank looks and “go through another layer of protocol to get approval.” Also possibly some conversations through pursed lips when I wasn’t in the room. Fine–that’s the world of work, right? You can’t always get what you want. Not every idea pans out. There is no “I” in “shared governance.” I get it. I’m not taking it personally, but I’m taking it. I’m taking it and processing it.
It’s not like I lack for ideas. If the universe says no this time, I’m ready with another launch. Seeds aplenty. Enough to scatter.
My question is this: where’s my fertile soil?
I know that later in Matthew 13 the disciples ask Jesus to explain the parable, but I’m suspicious of that–it seems more likely to me that Jesus ended with “Who hath ears to hear, let him hear” (from the King James Version, the poetry of which can’t be beat, especially not by “let anyone with ears listen,” ironic, since apparently the translators of the New Revised Standard Version, which I like for other reasons, had no ears to hear music). It seems likely to me that the disciples ended up going home and saying, “Well, what do you think he meant this time?” And came up with the word of God idea and told that to others so that eventually the cartoon bubbles got mixed up and people remembered Jesus saying all those words. In any case, in my head this story is merging with Jesus saying “Don’t cast your pearls before swine,” and I’m left wondering if I’m sowing my seeds in the right place.
Where’s the line between giving it the old college try and beating your head against a dead horse?
In looking to Jesus (as I often, often do), I can’t help but remember two contradictory stories–there’s the shepherd who searches relentlessly for the one lost sheep (not practical!), which would indicate diligence and patience are called for. Then there’s the “brush the dust of that town off your feet” if people won’t listen to you. Again and again–Mary or Martha? Should I stay or should I go? (No, wait–that’s the Clash.)
And then when it comes to “don’t cast your pearls before swine,” I have to think of Rodney Jones calling pigs “the dolphins of the barnyard,” and I also remember Dorothy Parker’s response when someone moved to let her go through a doorway first, saying, “age before beauty.” Her response was “pearls before swine.”
Clearly, what I’m saying is, I’m addle-pated. I guess for the moment I’ll trust in the gospel of the Boss who sings, towards the end of “Rocky Ground,” that “there’s a new day comin’.” Maybe in that new day there will be some more yes and slightly less no. Of course the song ends with the same sweet-sounding chorus of hard times, “We’ve been travelin’ on the rocky ground, rocky ground.”
At least I’m looking down now and then and noticing, “Oh. That’s rocky ground.”