“And for what was sown on good soil, this is the one who hears the word and understands it. He indeed bears fruit and yields, in one case a hundredfold, in another sixty, and in another thirty.” Matthew 13:23 ESV
I have a small flower bed, aka a patch of dirt, in front of my house that has been a challenge the entire nine years I have lived here. When I first moved in, I envisioned planting lots of bright flowers to greet me when I came home. But, year after year, I was assaulted with withered and diseased flowers, or lavender that made a mullet look good. After researching dirt this year, I have finally succeeded in creating a beautiful space. Although the flowers are not heirloom roses or fancy dahlias, the different shades of zinnias and petunias are brightening the entrance to my home and adding beauty to my days!
Through this process, I have learned that not all dirt is equal. When we first moved in, the ground in front of our house was worn out, and full of clay and rocks. Being completely naïve about dirt, I just started planting. Between the poor quality of the dirt and the full afternoon southern exposure, my first flowers quickly withered away. I then decided to try my hand at lavender. It was beautiful the first year, but I had no idea that it might need some pruning, and within a year or two, the lavender came in spotty, with dead wooden stalks spiking out haphazardly. Finally, after six years of failure, I started to do a little research. I found that this small space desperately needed some soil amending, so I started adding a little bit of fresh topsoil along with compost. I also covered the soil with mulch to protect the dirt. This work, although tedious and costing a little bit of time, energy, and money, has finally paid off!
Recently one of my pastors, Mike Kemper, preached a message on being good dirt. Applying the Parable of the Sower, Pastor Mike encouraged us to cultivate good dirt in our lives for God’s word to take root and transform us (click here to view the entire sermon). I have been meditating on this message for a while. Am I cultivating myself to not only hear the word of God but to let it transform me as well? Do I take the time to posture myself with true humility, loosening the hardened clay of my soul, so that I can listen to what God is trying to say to me? Do I take the time to remove the stones of bitterness, resentment, and even righteous indignation, so that God’s word can saturate me? Yesterday, as I was writing this blog, I found out that someone I know was making some false assumptions about me and my motives. It reopened a wound that I have been asking God to heal completely. Unfortunately, I cannot change that person’s perspective, but I can change how it affects me. If I choose to let this unfair judgment sit in my mind where it will fester and grow, it will eventually harden into a stone of bitterness. This stone will take up space in my life where God could be fruitful and bless my life. Therefore, I am choosing to handle this with grace, and again, ask God to help me forgive those who wrong me.
Just as I added compost to my dirt, I also need to amend my own life with the beauty and richness of books, music, podcasts, and art that glorify God. It is easy to fill your life with entertainment that numbs your soul and causes you to slowly decay. Six years ago, I realized I was spending a lot of time entertaining myself by binge watching different television programs. I decided to fast TV and movies for a year. That year, I found the fast was making more space in my life to read the Bible and to hear directly from God. In that same spirit, I have chosen to cultivate my social media feeds with people that add to the beauty of the world by glorifying God, either directly or indirectly, through their art, music, and/or words. This helps me meditate on the goodness of the Lord instead of the problems in the world. This is not to say that I do not pay attention to news, but I don’t let the negativity dictate my social media feed!
Finally, I need to protect my soil by surrounding myself with a community of believers who can speak truth into my life. Just like the mulch that added a layer of protection to my dirt, I need others in my life who will cover me with their prayers and edify my spirit. Also, if I am unaware of a thorn growing in my life, such as a bad attitude, habit, or agreement I have made, they can bring my attention to that thorn in a spirit of love, so I can remove it before it chokes out my fruit. But this covering of mulch will only work if I have cultivated good soil underneath. This means, I must be in a position of humility to receive the warning or correction being given.
Recently, I was corrected by an employee at one of my favorite greenhouses when I commented that their dirt was my favorite dirt to buy. I was told that he prefers to call his products “good soil”. No matter what I call it, it is up to me to cultivate it to make it good!