Recently I began a new spiritual discipline - writing out Scripture. It's been a really great way to make me pay attention to every word and think through what the Lord has for me as I process them. I chose to write out every word of Jesus, so I began in Matthew and have stuck to the red letters. I have been shocked at how much I have already been challenged and grown in this process.
This morning, I made it to the parable of the sower - specifically, Jesus explaining it to His disciples. This is in Matthew 13:18-23 (NIV)
18 “Listen then to what the parable of the sower means: 19 When anyone hears the message about the kingdom and does not understand it, the evil one comes and snatches away what was sown in their heart. This is the seed sown along the path. 20 The seed falling on rocky ground refers to someone who hears the word and at once receives it with joy. 21 But since they have no root, they last only a short time. When trouble or persecution comes because of the word, they quickly fall away. 22 The seed falling among the thorns refers to someone who hears the word, but the worries of this life and the deceitfulness of wealth choke the word, making it unfruitful. 23 But the seed falling on good soil refers to someone who hears the word and understands it. This is the one who produces a crop, yielding a hundred, sixty or thirty times what was sown.”
As I was writing out these familiar words, I was surprised to find a fresh (to me) perspective. I've always just thought about the soil as something that just exists in whatever state, but this morning, I thought about my role in preparing the soil.
As a disciple called to make disciples, we're constantly discipling others - long before we're ever invited to explain something in Scripture, we're teaching by how we live, the words we choose, the way we interact, the faith we display in our own struggles... always. And in doing that; by intentionally engaging those who need to come to know the truth of Jesus, we are helping to prepare the soil. In doing the work of discipling someone, their "soil" is made ready to receive the word and have it take root and grow!
Through His prevenient grace (the grace He lavishes on us well before we even know His name, before we give Him our hearts) God does the work of preparing the soil in so many ways. But one of those ways is US! He uses us to prepare the heart-soil of those who don't know Him yet, those who are coming to know Him, and those who know Him but need to know Him more.
And, of course, once we know Jesus, we have to keep tending to our own soil. Making it ever ready to receive a fresh Word from God. Ever ready to let what we read in Scripture challenge us, transform us, make us new.
I looked up "what makes soil good?" - it wasn't all that shocking. It needs to contain a good mix of sand and clay, and be filled with nutrients and organic matter. It should retain water well. You can recognize good soil by looking for certain signs - worms and creepy crawlies will make their home in good soil. The roots of plants (or weeds) in good soil will have longer roots with healthy color, the soil will be rich and dark, and moist, and the flowers and plants in the garden will be flourishing. Bad soil would show the opposite or absence of these signs.
So I'm thinking through this in real time with you. How does that translate to the metaphor Jesus gives in this parable? What does good "heart-soil" look like, and how do we foster it?
What does it look like? I think it shows in a softened heart, one curious and paying attention. One who is more and more tuned to considering God and His role in our lives, and decisions, and circumstances. It looks like asking hard questions in search of truth. How do we foster it? Engaging! Being vulnerable to share our faith, our struggles, and the ways we have seen the Lord come through, proving Himself faithful and worthy of praise and worship. We make ourselves available to those asking the hard questions. We keep living and speaking Jesus around people, even when what we see would suggest their soil is just an inch of gravel stacked on concrete. We keep loving like Jesus.
I'm sure I haven't come close to scratching the surface in those questions, so I invite your thoughts in the comments.
What a privilege, and serious display of trust that God would use us to prepare the soil for His Word to take root. I'm encouraged. And reminded to keep my own heart-soil healthy.