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Becoming Good Earth

     It is an annual ritual in my house.  The first time I push aside the leaves and mulch in our garden and discover tiny green shoots in the earth, I call for each of my kids.  We stand around in awe and anticipation, just spending a few moments looking down at our first sign of spring.  It feels so wonderful, so hopeful, to see physical evidence that the coldness and deadness of winter will be ending soon.

     So far, my youngest daughter is the only one I haven’t yet put to work in the garden.  When she sees these little green leaves, it may seem almost like magic.  The rest of us, though, know that before we can enjoy the fanfare of brightly colored spring tulips and daffodils, we had to plow up the earth, plant the bulbs, weed and protect them from weather that is too harsh. Our efforts didn’t produce much at first.  These bulbs didn’t grow all fall and into the winter.  It’s only now, months after their original planting, that we see evidence of growth and life.

     As Christians, it’s easy to forget that in order to grow and produce life, we have to let God work in our hearts.  It’s sometimes painful and we don’t always see the purpose of this work right away, but our fruitfulness depends on it. 

     This year, I’ve felt God turning over the soil of my heart, sifting out the deep-rooted sins that have to be removed before I can produce fruit.  From the surface, I may have looked like good soil before this.  Sometimes it’s the sins that we can easily hide from others that are the hardest to dig out.  Yet, He knew about those hidden sins that I manage to keep so private---sins like pride and jealousy, and He’s digging them out with firmness and yet with so much grace. 

     In Hosea 10:2, it says, “Sow for yourselves righteousness, reap the fruit of unfailing love, and break up your unplowed ground; for it is time to seek the Lord, until He comes and showers righteousness on you” (NIV).  We may think we’ve given over all of our lives to God.  We may see some fruit and think that it’s enough.  Yet, God will always ask us to draw closer to Him, to give more of our lives, to break up unplowed ground and allow Him to work in the areas we’ve previously kept from His hand.

     Jesus used a similar metaphor in the Parable of the Sower to remind the disciples that there are different types of soil---people who are variably receptive to God’s Word.  I don’t know about you, but I’m not always topsoil!  Sometimes I’m clay and other times sand full of beach pebbles. 

     In His Parable, Jesus identified four different soil types:

  • Hard road with no growth: Some people are like the seed that falls on the hardened soil of the road. No sooner do they hear the Word than Satan snatches away what has been planted in them
  • Shallow Soil: And some are like the seed that lands in the gravel. When they first hear the Word, they respond with great enthusiasm. But there is such shallow soil of character that when the emotions wear off and some difficulty arrives, there is nothing to show for it.
  • Weedy Ground: The seed cast in the weeds represents the ones who hear the kingdom news but are overwhelmed with worries about all the things they have to do and all the things they want to get. The stress strangles what they heard, and nothing comes of it.
  • Good Earth: But the seed planted in the good earth represents those who hear the Word, embrace it, and produce a harvest beyond their wildest dreams. (Mark 4:14-20, MSG).

     I hope you are the good earth, but if I’m being honest, I am most often the weedy ground, “overwhelmed with worries about all the things I have to do” and the fruit of my life gets strangled by stress. 

     Sometimes in real life, I’m tempted to just dump a whole bunch of mulch on top of the weeds, hoping they suffocate under the load.  It’s that way in my heart, too.  It seems easier somehow to just dump a righteous façade on top of my bad attitudes, lack of trust, and other heart problems and hope that those sins remain hidden. 

     Any good gardener, however, will tell you that the only way to get rid of weeds is to completely remove them, roots and all.  It’s work—hard work---but it is what needs to be done to ensure the quality of the soil and to produce the best harvest.

     If God has been urging you to “break up your unplowed ground,” allow Him to work.  It might hurt as He uses circumstances and other people to break up that hard ground.  Then, when He has uprooted the weeds of sin in your life and turned over soil, unsettling your ground and disturbing your status quo, “sow for yourselves righteousness . . . .and seek the Lord.”  Protect your heart from those same sins taking root again by filling up that dirt with His Word and with time spent in His presence. 

     Ask God what kind of soil you are right now and allow Him to break up the dirt, remove the gravel, and pull the weeds that are keeping you from being fully receptive to His Word.  It is only then that you will see growth and life, signs that a cold and dead winter is ending.  When God is allowed to work deeply in our hearts, it is then we can “produce a harvest beyond our wildest dreams.”

To keep up with Heather King, follow her blog at: http://heathercking.wordpress.com/

Copyright © 2008-2015 Heather King

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