I’m a big lawn guy. I love a good looking yard and I work probably too hard to have one. There are a lot of keys to a good lawn and I’ll come back to this analogy at another time. But today I want to talk about preparing the soil for seeding.
If you want to have a good lawn you have to prepare the soil. If you just throw seed on top of the bare spots nothing will happen. You can water it and everything else, but it won’t matter much. What you need to do is till up the soil. Get at least three inches deep. You need to get rid of anything else growing there as well as any sort of rocks or debris. Then you rake it smooth and if you’re really into it, which I am, then you get a roller and roll it smooth. Then and only then do you drop some seed, spread evenly of course. Then you gently rake it in to the loose top soil. Then I typically throw some straw on top of it to protect it from erosion and getting washed out. Finally you water it . . . . for a while. You have to keep it moist until it grows. This is to say nothing of the maintenance of the yard to keep out weeds and encourage deep rooting. It’s a continual process.
The same is true of our hearts when it comes to the soil we become for the word of God.
Last time we talked about the types of soil that Jesus mentioned in the parable of the sower in Luke 8. I think it’s fair to say that in some way we are all four types of soil. So how do we cultivate our own soil? How do we become the good soil? How might we help others become the good soil?
The first soil is the soil by the path. This is the hardened heart soil. It’s important for us to consider where are we prideful or rebellious to God. Where are our hearts hardened. We can take these things to God. We need to surrender our pride and rebellion to Him as we identify it. We also need to look for any places of deep woundedness that has hardened us and allow God to minister to those places.
When it comes the evangelization of others this might mean breaking down walls. The number one way to do this is love. If we love others well this can break down the soil of their heart which makes it much easier to receive the word. This is why relational evangelism is so much more effective. Love can till concrete. It really can.
The second soil is that of the rocky variety. This is where we respond emotionally to the word. This isn’t a bad thing in and of itself. It is emotional. Especially when we experience the love of God in a meaningful way. But the problem is that we don’t get to live the temporal life on a constant high. If we are going to stand up to the very real temptations that we will face we must have more than emotional belief, we must cultivate deep faith. If I’m living from one “God high” or from one religious experience to another the valleys are going to be rough, and it won’t take long to get taken out.
We can cultivate this soil by learning more and plugging in. Our faith becomes based on reason, knowledge and wisdom and not just feelings and experience. This is especially true in our postmodern culture where experiences and feelings are seen as our truth. There is a deeper truth that is true regardless of how we feel or what we experience. If we are going to move towards deep soil then we have to plug into that. If we want to help others then we need to help them do the same. Our job isn’t done because we or others pray a prayer or make a momentary confession.
Study of the scriptures, fellowship with believers, and the sacraments of the Church all play a role in helping us break up rocky soil and grow roots.
The third soil is that soil surrounded by thorns. These are those who are choked out by the worries, riches and pleasures of this world. This is the trap for many of us who start out well. We grow roots. We sprout. We begin following Jesus but we get wrapped up in the things of this world. This can happen at every turn and every stage of life. It’s when we begin to put our treasure in things of this world first. Maybe we get married and that’s the focus. We have kids that becomes the focus. We build a career. We get the first house or the dream house. Heck we get to retirement and now it’s “our time”.
I heard a pastor one time say that we don’t fall away from Jesus. It’s not like we are walking along and then all of a sudden we just fall. He said what we do is we slowly wander away. This is the story of the person choked out by the thorns. Here are some ways we avoid this.
First, we choose over and over again to keep Jesus first, to put our treasure with Him. Second we will need some people in our lives who will help us see this. We need others to now and then pull us back when we wander. Finally we need to engage in advancing the kingdom. This keeps the focus on others (loving others) instead of just ourselves. We also need to help others not wander and we need to disciple people to make disciples and not just lead them to living in their own bubble.
These are some of the ways I think we can till our own soil and help till the soil of others. I don’t believe the point of the parable is that you are one soil or another. I think it is choose the soil you want to be.