In the gospels, there are several parables that deal with farming of some kind. One of these is the parable of the man who sowed seeds, and how some seeds fell on rocky ground, some fell on thin soil, some fell among weeds, and some was eaten by birds because it fell on the path.
But in the story, Jesus also says that there is seed that falls on good ground and takes root. There, the seed grows and produces fruit. This, He tells His apostles, stands for people who are ready to hear the gospel. People who, when they do hear it, take it to heart and really live the message of love that Jesus brings to us. Those people change their lives to cultivate God’s kingdom in their own hearts.
We all want to be that good soil. Or at least we pay lip service to the idea of wanting to be that good soil. The thing is that to be that soil, God has to prepare us for it. And that preparation is rarely pleasant.
Have you ever planted a garden? Our family did this by purchasing top soil and making raised garden beds. But each year, we go through the same thing to get the soil ready for planting. We have to go in early spring and start pulling up the little weeds that have sprung up, especially the pesky morning glories (which are beautiful, but will kill our tomato plants). If we see dandelions, we have to get a hand trowel and dig the roots out. Then we turn over the soil and rake it to break things up. (Our topsoil here tends to be very heavy on the clay, so we have to break it up every spring and allow the seeds to take root.) Usually, we check the compost bin and mix in whatever we have, turning and raking the soil more. Finally, we create mounds or troughs, depending on what we’re trying to plant that year. Then, throughout the season, we go in and pull weeds some more and try to keep the dandelions and morning glories at bay.
The soil is really worked: turning, raking, adding compost, adding fertilizer, digging trenches and building mounds, breaking up clay balls… It’s a lot of work, but the results are great! Fresh tomatoes and peppers, fresh green beans…we were blessed with a good harvest this year. The garden bore fruit.
But that garden wouldn’t have born fruit if we hadn’t worked the soil. If we hadn’t gone in and disturbed it in early spring, nothing much would have come up except for the weeds. And if we didn’t keep on disturbing it by weeding the garden, the weeds could very well take over and ruin the vegetable plants.
And so it is with our souls. When we are ready for the gospel message, it means our souls have been tilled like the soil before spring planting. God has to uproot the weeds, dig out the really deep dandelion roots, pull rocks out of the soil, and get us ready to receive the message. We can help, to be sure, but it’s not going to all be pleasant. Sometimes there are parts of us that need changing if we’re to bear fruit for God’s kingdom. Sometimes we have a lot of morning glories, which appear pretty, but will choke the good fruit. Sometimes we have a lot of dandelions, which means God is really going to have to work on us. Our old sinful habits are really hard to dig out, and we can’t do it on our own. When we ask God to help us be ready for His gospel, we’re asking Him to help dig out the deep taproots and pull the dandelions. It won’t be pretty, but the gaping holes that seem to be permanent will be smoothed over and filled in by His loving hands.
This Advent, we are supposed to be getting ourselves ready for the coming of Christ — not as a tiny Babe in a manger, for He has already done that, but His Second Coming, when we will be judged by the fruit we have produced. Jesus will look over the garden of our souls and judge what we’ve done. Did we allow the pretty things of this world — the morning glories and dandelions — take over where we were supposed to be fruitful? Or did we work with the Lord as He tilled our souls, pulling weeds alongside Him? Did we accept the difficulties that come with turning over the soil, or did we resist and allow the clay to harden so that nothing would grow?
Take time this Advent to allow God to till your soul. Pray and allow Him to point out the morning glories — those pesky, unending habits that keep coming back as soon as we pull them. Ask Him to show you the dandelions — deeply-seated habits that are destructive to our souls and are oh-so-hard to get out. Ask Him to pull them out for you, to help you weed the garden. Let God till your soil. Let Him change you for the better.