Many are getting ready to plant and tend various gardens again this year. Some will be breaking up new ground to start from scratch. Others will be expanding or re-structuring existing gardens. Farmers will turn attention to the state of their fields. All who plant hope for beauty and harvest. So they have concern for the state of the soil they plant in. There is a life lesson in this. Soils of the heart – we should be concerned about the condition of our heart’s soil. Is it ready for beauty and harvest?
When you plant any crop, it is critical to identify soil composition, location, and natural geographical considerations. Otherwise, there will be little – or no beauty and harvest.
Soils of the Heart – the Parable
One of Jesus’ popular parables – the soils of the heart – is recorded in Mt. 13, Mk. 4, and Lk. 8. Jesus masterfully uses tangible, practical examples from people’s daily lives. Contemporary farmers of Bible days would most often plough with simple implements, sow seeds by hand-scattering, and hope for rain. They paid attention to the kind of soil they sowed seeds into. Not of course, with the modern technology and chemistry we employ now. But they did consider it seriously. Jesus used these common-knowledge life facts to teach about soils of the heart.
Just as earth’s soil affects planting, the soils of the heart affect the planting of God’s seeds.
First Heart Soil – Beaten Path
Seeding an area that is hard and packed is an exercise in futility. The seeds will never penetrate that ground. In fact, some might even bounce off onto more receptive ground surrounding the pounded earth. With no hope of rooting, those surface seeds might become nourishment for birds, insects, and even small animals. This hard, unreceptive soil is a path – a place where people travel: come and go. It’s not a place to linger, not a landing place, but rather a kind of corridor to “get somewhere.” It’s hardened by busy-ness.
The Word of God scattered on top of the “busy-ness” of people’s lives often falls off, bouncing away. Or it is picked off by a competing agenda. There is no lingering – only the coming and going to get somewhere and do something. It’s a place of “hardening” in people because no one intends to stay. No receptiveness or readiness of heart welcomes the value of the seeds. No attentiveness to beauty or harvest reaches out to absorb, cushion, and envelop God’s life seeds. It sounds a bit like this –
The Beaten Path:
Everyday jobs, my schedule, same sounds – same sights, strategic planning, thinking, travel, meetings, relationships, details, responsibilities, deadlines, opportunities, and my agenda. And – oh, yes – the Word of God bouncing across it all. Falling off . . . to . . . uh – somewhere.
You know, harvest crops require warm, receptive soil, and the seeds cannot be brushed aside by the busy comings and goings of life. They need deliberate planting. The busy paths of life are not the fertile ground of future beauty and harvests of the heart.
Second Heart Soil – Rocky Ground
Any seed that happens to land between rocks and pebbles may happily grow up only to be short-lived. The competition for land with nutrients will almost always be won by the forceful pre-occupying boulders and rocks. Any plant that does begin to root between the stones will soon wither with no ability to reach down into the layers where water is stored.
When Scripture is scattered over soils of the heart already too full, too complicated, littered with many self-imposed life boulders, there will not be impressive beauty or harvest. Unless a major bull dozing takes place, it will only tease with possibilities . . . but not be dependable enough to support the bounty God desires to give.
Rocky ground is not preferred for a bumper crop. It’s nearly impossible to work up. It’s not pliable. With no accountability for prep and care required for high quality seed crop, this heart soil is not compatible for beauty and harvest. In today’s world, it looks like this –
Love good news! Tell me positive messages. Applaud my accomplishments. My life is littered with them! OK, throw in God’s Word, too. There’s room for it all. Wait! – I’m supposed to do what Scripture says? Practice God’s principles – instead of my own agenda? Give up my life to save it? Living sacrifice? Wait – that’s expecting too much. In fact, it’s consuming. I have a life to live here! My circumstances are difficult. Time is tight. Setting aside my preferences won’t work. Obeying God costs more than I’m prepared to invest. After all, I have a collection of personal preferences in my life soil.
Third Heart Soil – Thorny Field
This ground is often properly prepared to receive good seed. Freshly tilled and raked. After seeding, however, it is not tended on a regular basis. No consistent watering or pains-taking, critical weeding. No practices of adding nutrients or aerating. It’s a lazy, easy-come/easy-go kind of gardening. When harvest time comes, the gardener never knows for sure what should be harvested. The desired crop is thin and emaciated. If any harvest will be salvaged, a pains-taking sorting must take place first. Honestly? The pains-taking weeding at planting and during growing season would have been easier.
When a heart field is prepared but not kept up, good growth appears at first after receiving God’s Word. Then invading weed patterns and habits grow up quickly and compete for life nutrients, time, and energy. Good growth begins to shrivel and there is no beauty or harvest. The yield is similar to the rocky soil. But the thorn-infested crop is thin. Emaciated. It’s a bit like this in real life –
Sounds like good news. I’ll take some. But I want other things, too. Thinning my life planting to just God’s principles is not practical in a modern world. I need to make life happen. Run hard. Keep up with others. I could miss my moment. What if I lose my health insurance or job? What if I can’t pay my bills or the stock market crashes? I’ve saved to buy things, go places, do things. What if I die first? What if . . . ?
Fourth Heart Soil – Good Soil
This lush rich soil is properly tilled, raked, and prepared. It is fertilized to the needs of the seeds and young plants. Water supply is immediate to give new plantings comfort, support, and nurture. The planted area is checked daily, weeds are pulled, stones removed. Tools loosen the soil to ensure proper aerating. Spacing and planning for future full growth is considered. The very “process” is enjoyed, making the experience lush and rich – just like the soil. Miraculous new growth is eagerly expected.
When God’s Word is received into a properly prepared heart, there is immediate growth. This person’s heart soil is made ready for beauty and harvest by the tilling and breaking life brings, and this person turns to God during the “upheaval” as their soil is prepared for more. Their heart trusts and obeys even while life is turned upside-down and raked over. They pluck out unhealthy, unnecessary pursuits and preferences to leave what is simple and rooted in faith. Good soils of the heart are maintained, nutrients are replenished, watered often – with God’s words of life. In practical terms, it looks something like this in today’s world –
Truth. God’s loving hands breaking up my hard areas. Water to my weary soul. Good news from a good God. Good promises and principles I am resolved to practice – even though I don’t understand them. Very hard work. A leap into Christ when I’m afraid. Believing. Training. Drilling into the details of my life. It looks different than I thought it would. But – it’s renewing, refreshing. In fact, it’s redeeming all things in my life! God is good. I will trust Him. I will obey no matter what my feelings do.
And then comes the beauty and the harvest.
You can have beauty and harvest in your life garden. Why not let God transform the soil of your heart to be a rich place for God’s planting? Why not eagerly anticipate His harvest of beauty?
Heb. 6:8 – “But land that produces thorns and thistles is worthless and is in danger of being cursed. In the end it will be burned.”
Here are some questions to help you assess the quality of your life soil. Be honest as you answer. Why not aim for beauty and harvest?
- How are things at ground level in your heart? How about underground where only God can see?
- What kind of soil is in your heart? Beaten path? Rocky ground? Thorny field? Good soil?
- What needs to change in your heart soil?
- What changes are you willing to make to have good soil God can plant His seeds in?
- Are you willing to let God till your life soil, turn it upside-down, rake it, fertilize and water it, pull weeds out that He says don’t belong?
Why not ask God to help you work on the soil of your life garden? Why not let God’s loving, kind, skillful hands sculpt His planting strategy in your heart soil? It’s His desire that you have a beautiful life garden and a harvest. And He wants to help you grow it. Will you let Him?