How powerless the soil is to produce anything on its own.
I am praying with Jesus’s parable of the sower and the seed. I can relate. No matter how hard I try, those three unreceptive soils are in me, impeding a harvest.
Birds pick up hopeful seeds from rocky places where I am spiritually asleep and need to be wakened to a new awareness of my surroundings, of others or of myself. More rocks beneath the earth won’t let my desire to honour God take root. A third place is overgrown with thorns of attachment, concern, and anxiety. I’m often too preoccupied with my thoughts or overwhelmed by my feelings to turn to God. In these dull patches, life is dormant. Even in the good soil, where my heart is eager and ready to respond to God, I am unable to do so without seeds. I can do nothing but wait on God to garden and seed me.
As I pray with these images, I ache for God to do just that.
A picture comes to mind. While I pray, Jesus is gardening me. I can see by the look on his face, that of all the things he loves to do, this is his favourite. I suspect he cherishes every opportunity he has to tend my soil.
Jesus wastes no time while I sit in silence. I watch him collect rocks and stones in his outstretched shirt then dump them into a pile with delight. I continue to pray and he takes a shovel, puts his foot atop the blade, and presses it hard into the dirt. He digs and tosses and digs and tosses until he meets the satisfying ding of resistance. Then, casting the shovel aside, he crouches down while his fingers find the offending rock. He groans and heaves until it is loosed, lifted, and thrust it away.
After wiping his brow with the back of his hand, my sweet gardener relaxes against a maple and refreshes himself with the words of my noontime prayer:
Lord, we pause at noon from work and activity
To remember the many gifts
that come from Your heart. . .
Once rested, Jesus puts on gloves and begins uprooting those pesky thorns.
Even while I go about my day, Jesus continues to work, shamelessly climbing over the wall whenever I forget to open the gate.
At vespers he straightens his back and dips his hand into the bag of cool seeds. Then he flings them into my rich dark earth.
“Amen,” he says with me at the end of night prayers.
“Amen,” I reply, “amen.”
Again Jesus began to teach by the lake. The crowd that gathered around him was so large that he got into a boat and sat in it out on the lake, while all the people were along the shore at the water’s edge. 2 He taught them many things by parables, and in his teaching said: 3 “Listen! A farmer went out to sow his seed. 4 As he was scattering the seed, some fell along the path, and the birds came and ate it up. 5 Some fell on rocky places, where it did not have much soil. It sprang up quickly, because the soil was shallow.6 But when the sun came up, the plants were scorched, and they withered because they had no root. 7 Other seed fell among thorns, which grew up and choked the plants, so that they did not bear grain. 8 Still other seed fell on good soil. It came up, grew and produced a crop, some multiplying thirty, some sixty, some a hundred times.”
9 Then Jesus said, “Whoever has ears to hear, let them hear.”
. . . 13 Then Jesus said to them, “Don’t you understand this parable? How then will you understand any parable? 14 The farmer sows the word. 15 Some people are like seed along the path, where the word is sown. As soon as they hear it, Satan comes and takes away the word that was sown in them. 16 Others, like seed sown on rocky places, hear the word and at once receive it with joy.17 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. 18 Still others, like seed sown among thorns, hear the word; 19 but the worries of this life, the deceitfulness of wealth and the desires for other things come in and choke the word, making it unfruitful. 20 Others, like seed sown on good soil, hear the word, accept it, and produce a crop—some thirty, some sixty, some a hundred times what was sown.” –Mark 4:-9,13-20 (NIV)