The parable of the sower is one I’ve heard often. It always leaves me with a feeling of introspection. What kind of ground have I made of my heart?
A sower went out to sow his seed: and as he sowed, some fell by the way side; and it was trodden down, and the fowls of the air devoured it. And some fell upon a rock; and as soon as it was sprung up, it withered away, because it lacked moisture. And some fell among thorns; and the thorns sprang up with it, and choked it. And other fell on good ground, and sprang up, and bare fruit an hundredfold. And when he had said these things, he cried, He that hath ears to hear, let him hear.
Luke 8: 5-8
Good ground, Christ explains a little later, are those with an honest and good heart. But how do we develop that honest and good heart? If we carry this parable a little further we might ask how to prepare good ground. Thorns would be removed and rocks too of course. To become more than the wayside though the ground would need to be softened, broken up and turned over. This does not sound like a fun process.
I’ve grown a few gardens in my life. Preparing the ground each spring can be the hardest part. I’ve run gas powered rototillers over large patches of earth and I’m always left sore and tired from the work. We planted a large garden each year when we lived in Elk Point. The last summer we were there we had little time to work the garden. We barely had time to get the seeds in the ground before circumstances prevented us from tending the garden at all.
I decided to try something a little different with the garden that year. I had a little electric rototiller about 12 inches wide. After turning over the entire garden (a space about 25×25 feet) I dug deep trenches with the tiller and used a hoe to pile the loosened soil in long mounded lines. The foot wide trenches were well over 18 inches deep next to their mounds. Once the mounds were all made we planted our seeds in the top of them. I cut the grass and laid the grass clippings along the bottoms of the trenches. My thought was that the grass clippings would keep weeds from springing up in the trenches.
As the plants were just getting established our schedules went crazy. Lisa and the kids headed back to our hometown to spend the summer with family and I began preparations to take on a new job in a different city. The night before I had to leave town for a few days I put the sprinkler on the garden. The next morning I got a phone call from my neighbour. “Did you mean to leave your sprinkler on all night?” I raced out to the garden and to my dismay it was completely flooded. The grass clippings were floating in the trenches just centimetres from the tops of the mounds.
It turned out that summer was ridiculously hot and dry. I forgot all about the garden thinking it ruined. I was extremely busy anyway and found myself out of town over the next month and a half. When I finally got back to the garden in mid August I was flabbergasted. It hadn’t rained a drop all summer and temperatures were high. My garden though was the best I’d ever seen it; my neighbours were all jealous. I had giant pumpkins, potatoes, bell peppers, a variety of tomatoes, corn, lettuce, cucumbers, zucchini and carrots. We even had celery. The grass clippings had kept the water from being evaporated right away and the garden had flourished without me ever picking a weed.
With our move to a new city we never really got to partake of the fruit of that garden. My jealous neighbours came with boxes and pails and cleaned us out. I’m glad they did.
I wonder about preparing the ground of my heart in such a way. I like the symbolism of harrowing and furrowing the heart, of digging and trenching and mounding the heart in preparation for the good word of God. I’m afraid though that to harrow, furrow, trench and mound the heart will require us to pass through trials and afflictions and possibly moments of despair; it will require us to get mired in service to others and undergo the back breaking, muscle straining, tiring work of living the gospel of Christ. All this while not looking back.
Yet, as the psalmist wrote:
The Lord is nigh unto them that are of a broken heart; and saveth such as be of a contrite spirit. Many are the afflictions of the righteous: but the Lord delivereth him out of them all.
Psalms 34: 18-19