‘Softening Ground’ from Fr. Jim Swarthout

Fr. Jim Swarthout

For those of us who celebrate recovery with families this Easter in the northern hemisphere, we are blessed to have abundant symbols of recovery and rebirth all around us. For me, though, there is one sign in nature that is the most meaningful indicator of new life this time of year, one that is probably easy to overlook…the ground begins to soften.

First, the snow melts, and then gradually the ground that has been frozen and covered all winter begins to thaw and soften. One thing I love about the ground starting to soften is that I am able to move my walks off the concrete sidewalks and onto the soft earth, which provides welcome cushioning to my aging joints. Softening ground is wet ground this time of year, and I love the squishing sound that my shoes make with every step I take. The softer ground also means that soccer and baseball games will soon be played again, and that those with green thumbs will soon be digging in their gardens. The softer earth gives rise to so many beautiful stirrings of new life.
The image of the ground beginning to soften is a vivid metaphor of what it feels like when God is doing new things in our lives.

I know this feeling in my life and others whom I work/minster with here at Rosecrance. People usually come to see us because life has become hard for them, literally. They come in with hearts, minds, souls and even bodies that have become hardened and rigid. They come alone, or they come with their loved one, or they bring their whole family because everyone has become hardened to each other. This hardness is usually the result of frozen sadness or hurt, or unresolved conflict or grief and the hardness has built up over a long period of time.

Why have they come? Because deep down, they don’t want to be hard-hearted, hard-minded, or hard-spirited, towards themselves or towards the people they love most. Deep down, a small, still voice longs for something different. And because they are willing to listen to this longing, slowly, imperceptibly at first, a miracle begins to happen. The ground begins to soften. The softening heart/mind/soul, just like the softening earth, soon gives rise to all kinds of miraculous new life. People forgive each other, and they forgive themselves. People who haven’t done so for a long time touch and hug again. There is laughter where once there was criticism and hurt. There is joy where there once was shame and guilt. Grief gradually loosens its grip. There is freedom where there once was bondage. There is life where there once was death. Recovery in terms of Resurrection happens. There is always a risk in the process of softening and choosing recovery/ resurrection, but it is always worth it.

“Life’s Waiting” is our mutual call here at Rosecrance. May together our hearts and souls be softened by the presence of the One who continues to bring recovery and life and new found joy out of death.

Fr. Jim Swarthout
Director of Clergy & Alumni Services