I was visiting someone whom I hadn’t seen in years. It turns out that in the time we hadn’t seen each other, she and I had developed very different ideas about social issues. And it seemed to me that her ideas were all wrong.
I found myself retreating into a cold, hard place of judgment, even disdain, hardly able to respond to my hostess’s efforts to make the visit enjoyable. It took a while to remember that instead of feeling so cold and hard, I wanted to feel the warmth of God’s tender love for each of us.
That’s when I remembered some “spring gardening” advice that Mary Baker Eddy, the founder of The Christian Science Monitor, gives. Her advice was familiar to me because it’s about gardening on a New England farm like the one I grew up on. First she wrote about “clearing the gardens of thought by uprooting the noxious weeds of passion, malice, envy, and strife” (“Miscellaneous Writings 1883-1896," p. 343). She adds advice familiar to those who garden in glacial soil: “Are we picking away the cold, hard pebbles of selfishness...?”
My father liked to say that the most reliable crop on our farm was stones. That’s because every spring after the freezing and thawing of the winter, stones were thrust upward from underground to appear on or near the surface of the soil. When the plow went over the fields, it would turn up our new “crop” of stones, some pebbles and some large rocks. Then we would get out the stoneboat and hitch it up to the tractor so that we could go through each field and pick up all those stones that impeded the planting of our real crops.
As a child, I remember wondering where the new stones came from. They hadn’t been there the year before. No one had scattered them there. They had no roots, so they could not have grown there. How did they get there?
But when my brother and sister and I were going through the fields, picking up the stones that would interfere with the harrowing and planting equipment, making sure that seeds could be planted and would grow, we didn’t need to know where those stones came from. We just had to get rid of them. And we did.
Maybe trying to imagine where those newly visible cold hard rocks came from is like trying to figure out where all those self-like suggestions come from that inhibit our growth: self-importance, self-justification, self-righteousness. Our job is to get rid of these suggestions so that we can feel the humbling, reviving warmth of the consciousness of divine Love’s power and activity.
Jesus urged us to get rid of these stonelike thoughts, to get rid of all the baggage that would weigh us down. “The Message” version of Matthew 5:3 has it, “With less of you, there is more of God and his rule.”
In that situation when I had withdrawn into rigid criticism and self-righteousness, I was glad to remove the hard stone of disdain. I realized that the hostess, with ideas so different from mine, and I could both be, as Mrs. Eddy puts it, “Warmed by the sunshine of Truth, watered by the heavenly dews of Love …” (“Miscellaneous Writings,” p. 343). I found ways to be grateful for her hospitality, and I was even more grateful to be free of the load of judgment – which is heavy to carry around. Our visit finished with the warmth of real affection.
The important thing is to thoroughly clear limiting suggestions out of our “gardens of thought” so that our thoughts and experience can develop unimpeded.
Whether it’s self-justification or self-pity, self-aggrandizement or any other “cold, hard pebble of selfishness,” once we clear out these suggestions, we are ready to feel the sweet, vernal freshness of Love, available to us all. And we are ready for a springtime of growth.