Roll Away The Stone

The following article appeared in the June 2023 issue of Roqueta, Menorca’s English-language magazine.

Welcome back, Roqueta. It seems appropriate for you to arise again during the season of Easter, an extended time of pondering what resurrection means. 

The last words that I wrote for Roqueta, a year ago, were: 

‘… by letting go of what needs to die, by focusing on the deeper and enduring needs of our world, by thinking of the longer term rather than instant gratification, and by seeking the common good rather than our own self-centred desires, we can in fact defy the darkness and open cracks through which the light may shine.’ 

‘Cracks through which the light may shine,’ was an allusion to one of Leonard Cohen’s songs, Anthem: ‘There is a crack, a crack in everything / That’s how the light gets in,’ suggesting that our imperfections and vulnerability present opportunities for something greater than ourselves to be revealed.  But the culture in which we live tries to deny imperfection and is largely dismissive of vulnerability. As a result, we create an environment in which it is fashionable to feign infallibility through bluster and deception, creating facades that inevitably collapse in the face of reality when we live in a world in which it is very difficult to keep secrets.

On Easter Sunday this year, in the context of resurrection, I found myself unwittingly returning to the theme of letting things go to speak (partly) about seeds, germination, and new life that can only spring forth when something is allowed to die.  At one point, just before things started to spiral downhill for Jesus, he reminded his disciples that, ‘unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains just a single grain; but if it dies, it bears much fruit.’ 

Seeds respirate ever so slightly if they are alive.  A dead seed cannot germinate and grow.  Jesus knew this.  He new about agriculture like everyone else in his community, simply because in first century Palestine people lived in closer proximity to the agriculture that provided them with sustenance. 

Jesus was also a master of metaphor and parables, so an idea that sticks out to us as odd is often the doorway into deeper understanding. 

What is it about a seed that dies for it to bear fruit?  What is a seed?  Basically it is living potential.  And so to bear fruit, the seed must cease to be a seed.  It must spend the energy reserves it has been saving, give up all its protective coatings, and become an incredibly vulnerable sprout. 

Of course, seeds are designed for security. Their respiration is so slow that they are able to protect life in incredibly adverse conditions, sometimes for many years.  But there’s a twist in this: many seeds never germinate because the life within cannot overcome the protective coating. 

If we love being a seed, if our lives are about comfort, security and protecting what has been given to us, then we will miss the opportunity to germinate. 

What God plans to do in us and through us often goes a lot further than our own goals and dreams.  Which means that we need to be open for discernment and willing to be changed.  Those of us who choose to try to follow a Christian life find ourselves challenged to give all that we are or might be, to use the gifts of ourselves, our time, our resources, our very life to a purpose greater than ourselves or our immediate family circle; to release tribal instincts, so prevalent in modern society, and seek the common good. 

The seed that cannot germinate because its protective shell is too hard fails to fulfil its God-given potential.  That goes for us too.  We are not good at softening our protective shells and and embracing vulnerability and openness, nor at letting go, at letting something die so that new life can arise.  Let’s face it, vulnerability is disdained as weakness in the world around us, which is both sad and unrealistic, because as flawed, fallible human beings, acknowledging our imperfections in vulnerability gives us opportunities to grow. 

There’s a song by Mumford and Sons, called ‘Roll Away My Stone,’ that seems to be pertinent to all of this.  The lyrics include these words: 

Roll away your stone, I’ll roll away mine;
And together we can see what we will find. 
Don’t leave me alone at this time. 
For I am afraid of what I will discover inside … 

Indeed, letting go, allowing something die, is not necessarily easy, or painless, and we might find ourselves approaching with trepidation whatever is revealed in the new life that emerges.  In the Christian tradition, resurrection of Jesus only takes place after a painful ordeal of abandonment, degradation, humiliation and death.  There is not just the death of Jesus to be overcome, but the rebuilding of relationships damaged by disappointment, abandonment and recrimination – as well as a very different form of life facing the followers of Jesus.  That is why Easter needs to be a season, not simply to celebrate glibly a miraculous emergence from a tomb from which a stone has been rolled away, but to recognise that the human condition is tinged with complicated and disruptive relationships that could use examples of patient healing as a process, not an event.  As an example, the rebirth of Roqueta itself only arrives after difficulty and tragedy.  

A good first step in all this might be to engage in some serious and honest self-examination.  We could ask ourselves, in life in general, what protective shell do we need to soften into vulnerability and openness?  There is no resurrection without death, so what might we need to allow to go, to allow to die, so that resurrection can occur, so that new life can arise?  And are we willing to give those around us the freedom to explore their own journeys of letting go and moving on? 

Mumford and Sons conclude the song ‘Roll Away My Stone,’ with: 

It seems that all my bridges have been burned, 
But, you say that’s exactly how this grace thing works. 
It’s not the long walk home 
That will change this heart, 
But the welcome I receive with the restart. 

Welcome back, Roqueta. 

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