Frances Ellen Watkins Harper’s poem Truthis one of the best out there about change. She wrote it about the institution of slavery, of how many times the rock of slavery had withstood so many attacks, until a humble seed of truth caused it to finally fall.
A rock, for ages, stern and high,
Stood frowning ‘gainst the earth and sky,
And never bowed his haughty crest
When angry storms around him prest.
Morn, springing from the arms of night,
Had often bathed his brow with light.
And kissed the shadows from his face
With tender love and gentle grace.
Day, pausing at the gates of rest,
Smiled on him from the distant West,
And from her throne the dark-browed Night
Threw round his path her softest light.
And yet he stood unmoved and proud,
Nor love, nor wrath, his spirit bowed;
He bared his brow to every blast
And scorned the tempest as it passed.
One day a tiny, humble seed —
The keenest eye would hardly heed —
Fell trembling at that stern rock’s base,
And found a lowly hiding-place.
A ray of light, and drop of dew,
Came with a message, kind and true;
They told her of the world so bright,
Its love, its joy, and rosy light,
And lured her from her hiding-place,
To gaze upon earth’s glorious face.
So, peeping timid from the ground,
She clasped the ancient rock around,
And climbing up with childish grace,
She held him with a close embrace;
Her clinging was a thing of dread;
Where’er she touched a fissure spread,
And he who’d breasted many a storm
Stood frowning there, a mangled form;
A Truth, dropped in the silent earth,
May seem a thing of little worth,
Till, spreading round some mighty wrong,
It saps its pillars proud and strong,
And o’er the fallen ruin weaves
The brightest blooms and fairest leaves.
In our own lives we have many rocks resistant to change. That’s not always a bad thing, rocks are stable. They are the foundation of our houses, mountains to be admired. Yet when it’s time to change, when we know something must be different, the spirit of a rock is not what we need.
We need the spirit of a seed of truth. Often. we think in order to remove the rock, it must be crushed. Sometimes people undertake huge efforts to change everything at once. In January, my social media feeds become inundated with videos of people dumping all the bad food they’ll never eat again, or show off the skinny swimsuit they’ll fit into by summer.
Sometimes that works. Cold turkey. Total and complete change all of a sudden.
I think most people need another way.
Nature, as captured in this poem by Harper, shows us another way. A growing truth, joyfully embracing the rock that had weathered so many storms. As the truth is feed by the sun and the rain, the rock cannot help but crumble.
Perhaps if you have a rock in the way, know that you don’t need to change it all at once, right this minute. Instead ask yourself, what is the truth that could grow around this? And see what blossoms.
Rev. Shawna Foster