A Time to Scatter Stones
An old proverb says, "People who live in glass houses shouldn't throw stones." I ain't gonna lie; I should never throw stones, seeing as my house even has glass fixtures and furniture. As soon as my petty nature rises, I remember that at one point, I was the immediate past president of the "stay-doing dumbness" club!
I was thrown for a loop when I checked this week's topic. Before now, I had never considered what this contrasting season could mean. After all, Ecclesiastes 3 is merely that scripture we resort to at funerals. Otherwise, we quote any couplet of the fourteen whenever the need arises, according to our circumstances.
Staring at that line, 'a time to scatter stones,' had me a bit perplexed. First, the word 'scatter' means to throw in various random directions. Yet my childhood warning had me at odds with that thought. As children, we were often cautioned not to throw stones because they have no eyes! In other words, once released, their target is sometimes up to chance. Why, then, is Solomon telling us time is allocated for scattering stones? To scatter does not suggest any kind of order to me. To scatter anything, to me, spells chaos.
Right then, I couldn't help recalling the number of times the Bible refers to stones or rocks in some way. Most famously, David defeated Goliath with a small stone. This, though, was one of those cases where the rock understood the assignment. It also says to me that rocks aren't solely for building, but when used unconventionally, a rock becomes a weapon. So, I had to question, "Is 'throwing' a means of scattering?"
In simplest terms, rocks are made of stone and minerals. Therefore, we can conclude that all stones are rocks, but not all rocks are stones and that a stone is smaller than a rock. I want to clarify so that my interchanging of these words is not lost in translation.
As I tried to understand how this phrase applies to life, I had to seek my higher authority. Based on new testament readings, in one instance, the Christian life can be likened to gardening. In a nutshell, stones had their uses, but when it came to gardening, the stone was, no doubt, a hindrance.
Mark's account of the parable of the sower says: "Other seed fell on shallow soil with underlying rock. The seed sprouted quickly because the soil was shallow. But the plant soon wilted under the hot sun, and since it didn't have deep roots, it died."
Mark 4:5-6 NLT
Without fear of contradiction, I can be set in my way—cemented in a strong and wrong position. Then what does life do? You've guessed it, demolish me. I mean, bulldoze me to ground zero. In haste, I want to be rid of all the stones. I want to have them carted off by the demolition crew. But it's in that rubble that lies the bits of stone suitable to help me rebuild.
When we examine the concept of scattering, we see that we do this act when things need to be loosened up, pulled apart, or dissected. While we may not phrase it exactly the same in other cases, it essentially means the same thing.
For instance, when your car's engine malfunctions, you disassemble it to diagnose the problem and then reassemble it in working order. It wouldn't run any better if you just left it on the garage floor in pieces. Or when you cut open the human body to remove the cysts, or fibroids or whatever. Afterwards the incision must then be carefully sewn up to restore the organism's health, which depends on connection and cannot survive repeated "loosening up." Both of these instances involved professionals who specialized in the issue at hand.
For the same reason, you break new ground. You dig up a lot of dirt, rocks, and roots. You loosen it and distribute it around, removing and rearranging certain portions. Not just with earth but also with architectural principles: you evaluate what makes a good building; you analyze what makes a suitable building in this specific location; you study what makes a good building for a particular group of people. All of this research takes a long time. There is chaos, noise, expenditure, and conflicts. The disruptions to daily living continue for years. Unexpected challenges arise along the way—even when things are going well! But the process begins with the scattering of stones.
Why, then, do so many of us try to self-diagnose and then self-repair? I can't speak for anyone else, but I was a hypocrite sitting on my tuffet, all the while being the thing I was judging people for. I'd want to tell you scattering stones is merely about getting your finances right—making sure your budgeting is on point. Or finding the perfect partner to camouflage your flaws. And it's not about sacrificing to take night classes in hopes you'd land your dream job, either.
But for me, it was about breaking down my character. It was about me extending grace to people, the grace I was constantly petitioning the throne for. It was me weeding out my preconceived notions about the outcome of any circumstance and relenting over the things I gave no control to.
Scattering stones is a hard job, much like the renovation shows on HGTV. The process is never pretty, and you never know what you'll find hidden in the walls of an old house that looks like it has good bones. You only know what you'll find behind the walls once you break them down.
As I moved those supposedly solidified stones of my character, I was astounded by what I discovered—rudeness, selfishness, cynicism, unreliability, deception, and, above all, a slew of inconsistencies jammed deep in the gaps and crevices. I didn't want to admit it. I didn't want to believe it. But it all stared back at me, masquerading as a well-staged house.
As Mark explained, there was my personal plot of stony ground. The kind where there was not much earth (or, in this instance, word), where what I deemed good things would immediately spring up but soon die because it had no depth. I didn't have what it took to maintain. While the stability of 'rock or stone' has its purpose depending on which stage of building you're at, rock can be a hindrance. Can this be why Solomon said there is a time to scatter stones? Could it be that, at some point, the stones must be broken?
'Cause here's the thing, as long as I could see the flaws in others and talk about them as if with disdain and conviction, then no one was paying attention to me. You know, the classic way of the world, make noise here, so no one pays attention to what's happening over there.
Nonetheless, for a building to be firmly planted, the earth must be broken up—the stones must be scattered. There must be a mess before there is beauty. My only word of advice is this, don't skip any steps in the process. And like structures constructed in real life, ensure you seek inspection at every stage. That way, you'll avoid having to tear it all down and begin again. Like mama and dem would say, "do it right the first time!"