"Behold, a sower went forth to sow, and when he sowed, some seeds feel by the wayside, and the fowls came and devoured them up. Some fell upon stony places, where they had not much earth, and forthwith they sprung up, because they had no deepness of earth: and when the sun was up, they were scorched; and because they had no root, they withered away. And some fell among thorns; and the thorns sprung up and chocked them: But other fell into good ground, and brought forth fruit, some a hundredfold, some sixtyfold, some thirtyfold." (Matthew 13)
When I was a child, I often tagged along with some adult into the deep woods picking up pecans. I noticed that there was a distinct smell in that place...it was not an offensive smell at all, but a pleasant odor which was something I later identified as the same thing found in rich soil...humus. Nowadays we try to recreate it with compost piles of grass clippings and vegetable garbage, but in the woods it was merely the smell given off by rotting trees and plants which were slowly decomposing...nature's way of producing good soil. It is sometimes referred to as "gardener's gold".
How is "good soil" produced? First, it takes time. Things need to die. The apostle Paul wrote, "I die daily", and by doing so he was creating his own spiritual "humus" by giving up "his" will---"his" choices---"his" life to follow and serve the Lord. And how was he to follow and serve Christ? By continually looking outward at the needs of others.
"For I was hungered, and ye gave me meat: I was thirsty, and ye gave me drink: I was a stranger, and ye took me in. Naked, and ye clothed me; I was sick, and ye visited me: I was in prison, and ye came unto me; then shall the righteous answer him, saying, Lord, when saw we thee hungered, and fed thee? or thirsty, and gave thee drink? When saw we thee a stranger, and took thee in? or naked, and clothed thee? And the King shall answer and say unto them, Verily I say unto you, Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me". (Matthew 25:35)
The good shepherd would give his life for his sheep. To take up one's cross and follow Jesus daily demanded death to self....but the end result would become a place where the Word-seed could produce fruit.
Consider Jesus...He literally CAME TO DIE....that was purposed before the foundation of the world! He walked in sacrificial giving of Himself for us....it is no wonder, then, that He was a miracle-worker...for He was the Living Word planted and flourishing in Good Soil!
All around me, I am creating my own environment. If I refuse to die...no "humus" can be created. My "soil" becomes depleted of nutrients...it cannot grow anything at all. Think again about the deep woods. If every leaf on every tree refused to die and fall to the ground...there would be no chance for new soil to be formed. In fact, the forest would soon cease to exist at all. It would have killed off itself.
As I thought about all of this, I realized that often I had faith...but little good soil. I was watering and focusing on the Word with all kinds of enthusiasm, but neglecting my dirt. It was not deep enough and had become compacted and full of rocks and thorns...how then, could I expect anything to grow?
The early settlers who went West found the plains had excellent soil...they could grow wheat like nothing they had ever seen before! They plowed the fields and set out to eradicate the prairie grasses so they could profit from grain crops. In so doing, they destroyed the very plant material that had been responsible for building the fertile soil! Soon, something changed....they were taking out, but had nothing to put back in. The result created what is known as the Dust Bowl!
Farmers headed west to Nebraska, to Kansas and Oklahoma to claim land that was covered with prairie grasses tall as a man's waist. Rich, fertile soil! And that soil yielded them record crops.....until all the nutrients were gone. No one seemed to ask..."Should we not rest the land for a season and allow the native grasses to revive and replenish, as they have for thousands of years?" The plundering and plowing under of those the native grasses and planting of profitable grains without resting the soil soon starved the land. Severe droughts came along, and since there was nothing to hold back the valuable top soil, winds carried it aloft, covering half of America with great clouds of dust.
John Steinbeck wrote of those miserable times in his book," The Grapes of Wrath".
"And then the dispossessed were drawn west- from Kansas, Oklahoma, Texas, New Mexico; from Nevada and Arkansas, families, tribes, dusted out, tractored out. Car-loads, caravans, homeless and hungry; twenty thousand and fifty thousand and a hundred thousand and two hundred thousand. They streamed over the mountains, hungry and restless - restless as ants, scurrying to find work to do - to lift, to push, to pull, to pick, to cut - anything, any burden to bear, for food. The kids are hungry. We got no place to live. Like ants scurrying for work, for food, and most of all for land."
Drought, dust, and depression.....100 million acres of good soil vanished almost overnight....
I wonder if the "sower" Jesus talks about in His parable would ever think of me being "gardener's gold"? Or is this a more fitting picture of what His Word sometimes finds covering the floor of my heart? Abandoned dreams, wasted efforts and years of my life that came and went so quickly, and left not so much as a lowly dandelion to say "this was a good place to grow..."
MARY E. ADAMS