Usually when the Bible mentions “rocks” or “rock,” it is a positive concept. The wise man built his house upon the Rock (Matt 7). The LORD is our Rock (various Psalms). We are spiritual rocks (stones) built into a spiritual house (1 Peter 2: 5). And Christ is the rock (stone) the “builders rejected” that became the Cornerstone (Acts 4:11).
But in the parable of the Sower (Mark 4), rocks are bad. When they are in the soil of a person’s life, it prevents the Seed of God’s Word from getting deep enough to lay roots. As a result, that person is unable to bear godly fruit in their lives.
I think of all the soils in this parable, the rocky soil is the easiest one to gloss over. It gets lost in between the “hard path” (those whose lives are so hardened toward God that there is no penetration of the Word) and the “soil with thorns” (those whose love for the world, sin, and selfish desire chokes out fruit of the Word). Certainly, having “rocks in the soil” seems a lot less glamorous than Satanic birds and murderous thorns.
When I got to this passage in my Lectio Divina of Mark, I felt that tendency to skip over the rocky soil. “Oh yeah, I know what that means.” But then the Spirit prompted me, “Oh yeah? What does it mean, Doug?” (That’s what I love about Lectio Divina! There’s plenty of space for God to chime into my thoughts)
And that made me think. What is it about the rocky soil? What does it really mean?
Here are a couple of thoughts that came to mind about this oft-neglected soil that serves as a cautionary tale for us:
1. The key function of the rocks is to keep the Word from going deeper into a person’s life. The deepest things in our lives are those which we protect the most: our hopes, fears, dreams, insecurities, secrets, fantasies, intimacies, extreme joys, and deepest tragedies. The purpose of God’s Word is to transform, confront, heal, align and set us free. It’s easy to give God the surface stuff and the comfortable stuff. But to allow anyone (including and especially God) access into the deep, dark places is scary. We actually put the “rocks” up to defend our soul.
2. The rocks are our defense mechanisms. Over the years, we’ve set up many mechanisms to protect our souls from hurt, exposure and vulnerability. Some of them are so sophisticated and bullet proof they make NORAD (North American Aerospace Defense Command) look like a white picket fence. Chances are, the more we’ve been wounded, betrayed, and exploited, the more rocks we put in the way. These include: denial, passive aggressiveness, co-dependency, religious justification, theological argumentation, modesty (false humility), and many others. These things may keep us safe from getting hurt (again), but they also block any meaningful transformation by God.
3. Many “good,” church-attending people have a “rocky soil” issue. I think this is the most dangerous of the three bad soils for Christ-followers. We go to Church and Bible Study and receive the Word with joy (“oh, that’s so profound,” “very inspirational”), but don’t allow it to root into the areas of our lives that need it the most. Christians are notorious for putting a “happy, spiritual face” on everything. But the test comes when life gets hard. Because we haven’t dealt with our rock issues, our faith is too shallow to withstand the pressure.
It’s almost ironic that this is the same demise as the foolish man who built his house on the sand! In the parable, we have to take out the “rocks.” In the Sermon on the Mount, we need to build on the “Rock.” Both are processes are necessary for the transformed life.
There is more I can write about this than I have time or space. But I just want to raise the questions:
– Are we willing to allow God’s Word and Spirit to go deep into the issues of our lives?
– Do we know what “rocks” we’ve set up to insulate our soul from God’s transforming work?