I saw a post recently on Facebook that showed a beautiful lawn with someone trying to dig into it with a piece of equipment. The picture simply said “pretty but hard soil”. This statement struck me as something to be considered, because it stirred up in me comparisons between gardening and things of the heart. Sometimes things can look pretty on the surface, but get any deeper than surface level and there is no life.
I then wanted to better understand what “hard soil” really was, so Google search found me a great video on the subject, where I learned that hard, compacted soil “has no life in it”. Wow, if that doesn’t speak to matters of the heart, what does?
So it got me thinking about what “tilling” and adding gypsum (“the clay-breaker”) might look like from a spiritual standpoint. Maybe some heartfelt prayer and confessing ours sins to one another — revealing all of the “crap” in our lives and instead of stopping it over into a corner or just walking around the piles, we till that living material into the ground? And if our hearts have grown hard, we need to remember the chain-breaker that we have in the gospel of Christ Jesus and what He has done for us.
There is a trend catching on right now called “no mow lawns”. The idea is that instead of having sod lawns that only allow surface level growth that is regularly cut and manicured for the sake of uniform appearance — what if we had lawns that were healthy gardens, flowers and eco-systems that made for a healthier soil and reduced unnecessary consumption of resources and time for maintenance?
It isn’t a huge leap to draw parallels between a hard clay soil with expensive sod laid on top — to people who present a clean and manicured surface level mask to hide what is really underneath. It shouldn’t be surprising to realize that if we focus our efforts on “how we are seen”, we aren’t using that focus and effort to actually work on deeper matters of the heart.
There is always a new opportunity for us to till up our garden, and let all of the organic material get properly mixed in, and maybe even move towards a more healthy eco-system that is abounding in life and producing much fruit.
Work your garden—you’ll end up with plenty of food; play and party—you’ll end up with an empty plate.
Proverbs 28:19 MSG
“What do you make of this? A farmer planted seed. As he scattered the seed, some of it fell on the road, and birds ate it. Some fell in the gravel; it sprouted quickly but didn’t put down roots, so when the sun came up it withered just as quickly. Some fell in the weeds; as it came up, it was strangled by the weeds. Some fell on good earth, and produced a harvest beyond his wildest dreams. “Are you listening to this? Really listening?” The disciples came up and asked, “Why do you tell stories?” He replied, “You’ve been given insight into God’s kingdom. You know how it works. Not everybody has this gift, this insight; it hasn’t been given to them. Whenever someone has a ready heart for this, the insights and understandings flow freely. But if there is no readiness, any trace of receptivity soon disappears. That’s why I tell stories: to create readiness, to nudge the people toward a welcome awakening. In their present state they can stare till doomsday and not see it, listen till they’re blue in the face and not get it. I don’t want Isaiah’s forecast repeated all over again: Your ears are open but you don’t hear a thing. Your eyes are awake but you don’t see a thing. The people are stupid! They stick their fingers in their ears so they won’t have to listen; They screw their eyes shut so they won’t have to look, so they won’t have to deal with me face-to-face and let me heal them. “But you have God-blessed eyes—eyes that see! And God-blessed ears—ears that hear! A lot of people, prophets and humble believers among them, would have given anything to see what you are seeing, to hear what you are hearing, but never had the chance. “Study this story of the farmer planting seed. When anyone hears news of the kingdom and doesn’t take it in, it just remains on the surface, and so the Evil One comes along and plucks it right out of that person’s heart. This is the seed the farmer scatters on the road. “The seed cast in the gravel—this is the person who hears and instantly responds with enthusiasm. But there is no soil of character, and so when the emotions wear off and some difficulty arrives, there is nothing to show for it. “The seed cast in the weeds is the person who hears the kingdom news, but weeds of worry and illusions about getting more and wanting everything under the sun strangle what was heard, and nothing comes of it. “The seed cast on good earth is the person who hears and takes in the News, and then produces a harvest beyond his wildest dreams.” * * *
Matthew 13:3-23 MSG
Now Jesus turned to address his disciples, along with the crowd that had gathered with them. “The religion scholars and Pharisees are competent teachers in God’s Law. You won’t go wrong in following their teachings on Moses. But be careful about following them. They talk a good line, but they don’t live it. They don’t take it into their hearts and live it out in their behavior. It’s all spit-and-polish veneer. “Instead of giving you God’s Law as food and drink by which you can banquet on God, they package it in bundles of rules, loading you down like pack animals. They seem to take pleasure in watching you stagger under these loads, and wouldn’t think of lifting a finger to help. Their lives are perpetual fashion shows, embroidered prayer shawls one day and flowery prayers the next. They love to sit at the head table at church dinners, basking in the most prominent positions, preening in the radiance of public flattery, receiving honorary degrees, and getting called ‘Doctor’ and ‘Reverend.’ “Don’t let people do that to you, put you on a pedestal like that. You all have a single Teacher, and you are all classmates. Don’t set people up as experts over your life, letting them tell you what to do. Save that authority for God; let him tell you what to do. No one else should carry the title of ‘Father’; you have only one Father, and he’s in heaven. And don’t let people maneuver you into taking charge of them. There is only one Life-Leader for you and them—Christ. “Do you want to stand out? Then step down. Be a servant. If you puff yourself up, you’ll get the wind knocked out of you. But if you’re content to simply be yourself, your life will count for plenty.
Matthew 23:1-12 MSG