I am not a good gardener. Not that I don’t want to be. I try my best to keep up with tending what’s planted. I remove the weeds (when I remember to), water (when I remember to), and fertilize (when I remember to).
Do you see a trend?
Knowing this about myself, I still decided to put out some vegetables this year. Nicky has been wanting to grow vegetables in planter boxes on our deck. And being the good and loving husband I am, I grabbed all three girls, went to Lowes, and bought all the supplies to plant vegetables on the deck for Mother’s Day.
Right before we checked out, Ellynn asked why I was buying dirt in a bag. I suppose it seemed a bit absurd to her to buy dirt when we have dirt all around…we just need to dig it up. And at first thought, I sort of agreed with her. It does seem absurd to buy dirt in a bag…especially at $4 a bag! But my reply was that we wanted to put the best dirt we could into the boxes so that the seeds had the best chance to grow. Why start with dirt that already has weeds, or rocks, or is hard and just plain not fertile when we could choose to have good soil to plant our seeds.
It reminded me of Jesus’ parable in Luke. The sower casts seed. And the seed is thrown on four different types of soil. The first soil is a dirt road. It’s packed down from foot traffic that has made it hard. The second soil type was rocky. There was good soil on top, but not much depth. It was full of rocks underneath. The third type of soil was full of thorns and weeds. And the fourth type of soil was fertile. It was good soil.
You don’t need to be a gardener to know which soil type will produce from the seed planted. Obviously if the soil is hard, it’s going to reject the seed. The seed will never penetrate. It’ll just bounce off the road. If the soil is rocky, the seed will begin to grow, but never have deep enough roots to produce fruit and vegetables, dying out shortly after it begins to grow. If the soil is full of weeds and thorns, they will eat up all the nutrients in the soil before the seed even has a chance. But if the soil is good and fertile, the seed will be accepted and produce fruit and vegetables.
Jesus uses parables (or stories) so often to explain spiritual truths. And this moment is no different. The soil is the Word of God. This obviously includes the Bible. But it is also the words spoken by a pastor, a Sunday school teacher, a mentor, or a friend, when spoken in agreement with the Bible. Bottom line, they are truths from God’s Word. And the soil types? Those are positions of the heart. A heart can be hard, shallow, distracted, or fertile. The seed, or the Word of God, remains the same. It’s the position of the heart that makes the difference.
It is this very reason that I answered Ellynn like I did. We had a choice to make. I wanted to have good fertile soil to give the seed we planted every chance to grow and produce. Why would we choose anything else?
Yet, if I’m honest and transparent, that’s what I do sometimes in my life. I chose something else…not intentionally, but through neglect.
Remember when I told you I wasn’t a good gardener? This is precisely due to myself not remembering to do what’s needed to keep the garden in good health. I can plant seeds in great soil, but if I don’t tend (water, fertilize, weed, remove rocks) to that soil, the seed won’t produce anything. It is my responsibility to prepare the soil and give the seed every opportunity to grow. If I neglect the condition of the soil, that seed will not likely grow, take root, and produce.
Neglect comes in a couple of forms – two primarily in my life. The first is just not remembering. Even with Siri and Alexa in my home, I can still forget! The second is in my responses – that is – how I choose to respond in my talk and in my actions. Poor responses in what we say and do change the position of our hearts (soil), from being fertile, to hard, shallow, or full of thorns and weeds. And it doesn’t take long to get there! Soil gets dry quickly and can become hard. Yet, even in the driest and hardest of soils, weeds can still grow quickly.
Bottom line, it is my responsibility. It is your responsibility. God doesn’t do this for us. James writes that when we draw near to God, God draws near to us. It starts with us. God has given us all the gardening tools we need to move our hearts into a fertile position. We have church on Sunday mornings, Sunday evenings, and Wednesday evenings. There are devotionals, Bible reading plans, YouTube videos all just seconds away. And you can always do like they did in the old days (that’s what my kids tell me)! You can get the ACTUAL Bible out, you know, the printed kind, and study passages at a time. All of those work together to make us strong when tempted, water and fertilize our soil, weed out what prevents real growth, and make our roots grow deep in Christ.
It’s choosing to prepare our hearts to be receptive to the Word of God.
Looking out over my deck, I have six boxes with green beans, cucumbers, lettuce, and spinach and three pots with tomatoes. They all look like they could use some tending. And at this moment, I am remembering to do that. So that’s what I’m going to do! Tend my soil.
Why not go and do the same?