Have you ever spent much time looking at soil?
I haven't really either ... but I DO know there is a big difference between potting soil, sand, clay ... One summer I worked at a big-box home improvement store. They had a return policy on all perennial plants. As I said, it was summer ... one of those summers where the sagey smoke from Central America was thick and it didn't rain. I worked in the garden area, and it rained once the entire summer that I was there.
A woman came huffing in, dragging a cart behind her filled with about a dozen dead azaleas. Their roots were in clumps of dry red clay. It almost was as if they'd been baked in a kiln. I'm glad I didn't work in customer service where they processed the return ... really lady?
It's easy to see that some soil is easy for plants to grow in. Some soil holds water well, some lets it drain away as soon as it falls. Some soil provides a soft bed for roots to push through, while some entraps them in a sticky, hard mess.
Right now our yard is so hard that when staking out a potential fence-line my husband and father-in-law were using a masonry bit on a drill to get the stakes started. We're talking a stake about the size of a pencil, by the way. The learned this trick in the frozen tundra of Wisconsin.
One of Jesus more memorable parables was about soil, and He compared the soil to the hearts of men. He even went on to explain the parable to His disciples:
This type of soil probably resides in a well educated person - to them, the gospel message is foolishness. (1 Corinthians 3:18-20)
This type of soil is within a person who is likely quick to grab on to lots of things. Christianity, the life of freedom offered that costs you nothing, sounds FANTASTIC! Count me in! But when their faith is tested it fails; they are eager to deny Christ when proclaiming Him might cost something.
This one breaks my heart, because I think this is what happens in America. We have so much that we have a lot to worry about. Instead of opening our hands and letting God provide, we cling to what we have and worry about how to keep it. We can't grow as His children that way, too afraid of losing our precious weeds to cut them down even as they keep us in the dark.
I won't pretend I know exactly what this looks like. But I can tell you that Jesus told us that "whoever does not receive the kingdom of God like a child will not enter it at all." This understanding the word doesn't mean we have to attend a seminary or have giant volumes lining our shelves explaining every word of the gospel. We just have to joyfully accept it, like children do any gift, and trust Him.
Last week my husband gave his testimony to the youth group at our church. He was worried about his delivery ... did he use the right words ... did he say too much; too little?
The thing is, when we go out into the world with what the seeds the Holy Spirit has given us, we have to remember that the soil has to be ready ... in the end something only He can do, but something we can work toward and be aware of instead of being so bent on "spreading the gospel" without listening; listening to His Spirit's leading, and listening to the soil around us (because in the end we are all made of dirt). I've always had a guttural disdain for door-to-door evangelism in part because I feel like that is the equivalent to me going out into my yard, announcing that I'm going to plan a garden, then just tossing seeds off the edge of the porch.
Instead we should be developing relationships, meeting needs ... tilling the soil if you will ... being intentional with our plantings. Weeding our gardens. Tending the young plants and protecting them, feeding them. If a person comes to a decision to follow Christ with you, you don't just air-high five God and move on to your next prospect without care being provided, even if not by you.
Yes, there will be some with hearts of stone who will never receive the word, and that doesn't mean you ignore them thinking you know that. But isn't part of our work here to prepare the way? To feed the spiritually immature?