I’m reading a new book, Me Too, by Jon Weece. I bought it because the back-cover summary starts with: “If you’ve ever tried to pick up the shattered pieces of your life and put them back together again without help, you know it’s an impossible task.” It goes on to say: “The truth is, God doesn’t enjoy your suffering, but he does understand it--and he knows exactly how to fix it.”
Reading more of the book last night, soaking in a hot bath of self-pity, Weece wrote about Jesus’ parable of the four soils (Matthew 13:1-23). Before, this parable always made me feel a little anxious, guilty even, because whenever I heard it, I realized that the soil of my heart wasn’t quite what it needed to be. But this time as I read it, the anxious guilt wasn’t there. Instead, I felt relief and love. Why? It’s not because I’m “good soil” yet, but it’s because I can see how God has been working in my heart. I discovered the joy and peace of being a work in progress in God’s hands.
My lightbulb moment: the parable isn’t about the soil; the parable is about the sower--God. The parable is about God’s enduring love.
I learned a few years ago that the parable of the soils can be a way to measure spiritual maturity, which is probably why I felt so much guilt when I read it or heard a sermon about it because I recognized my “rockiness” and all the” weeds and thorns” that threatened and distracted, and the “birds” that devoured the seeds. But this time, instead of seeing the threats, the bad circumstances, and my own poor choices, I saw God’s patient farming. He’s still planting seeds; He’s still tilling and preparing the soil of my heart to bear His fruit.
When I moved “out to the country” and had grand, romantic visions of a garden and a small farm of chickens and goats or sheep and maybe even a pig or dairy cow, I, like normal, was deluded to the realities of actually doing what I envisioned. Three years later, I have a pretty healthy compost pile, a slightly larger but only somewhat fruitful and still unpredictable garden, and six out of eight chickens that after a year and a half are only laying an average of two eggs a day. So… what I’m learning is that real farming (or real anything, for that matter) isn’t nearly as easy as the books make it out to be.
And I’m learning a lot of patience. Growth takes time. My farm is a work in progress. I am a work in progress. I kind of see my life like my compost pile. The garden of my heart isn’t quite as fruitful as it will be, but it’s a work in progress. My compost-like life is full of leaves of seasons past and scraps and remnants of food that has fed me and my family and friends, but it’s also full of fruit that was “wasted” that for whatever reason didn’t get used before it rotted and went bad, but in God’s compost, nothing is wasted. And I can’t forget the big heaping, steaming front-loader bucket full of manure. Yup, I’m pretty sure this is true for all of us, sometimes life can be pretty crappy. And over the last seven months as I’ve cried more frequently than I can ever remember, I know God is using this “rainy season” of tears to prepare my heart.
The hard part is the day-to-day endurance. The waking up every day, putting on my “big-girl britches” and my waders (because it’s another day of trudging through the muck) and accepting life as it is right now, the lessons I’m learning right now for the fruit that God is planting--that’s the hard part.
Today, in David Woods’ Remix, when he talked about Jesus praying, crying, and sweating blood in the garden at Gethsemane, David said: “Endurance is as much a display of fullness as deliverance is.” Jesus could have taken the shortcut out of dying on the cross, but because He knew His life was complete in God, He could endure--even the cross. Knowing that God knows what I’m struggling with, knowing that God loves me enough to endure the cross for me, knowing that God loves me enough to continue to work in my life even when I have a hard time seeing any good in it is truly enough.
Jesus IS enough for me.
This is a great idea to sing. It is an even greater belief to live by, but it is an incredibly hard truth to accept. Why? Because it requires change. It requires acknowledging the rockiness of your heart and the weeds and thorns in your life, and accepting your inability to eliminate the birds that threaten the seeds that God wants to grow in your life. It requires accepting God’s tilling. It requires not giving up.
Allowing him to remove the rocks and the weeds and the thorns sounds good, but when those rocks are a part of you, it can be painful. When those weeds and thorns are ripped out, some of the soil of who you think you are gets pulled out too. I feels awful! And then, to heal and create a healthy, nutrient rich soil for fruit, God mixes in the gross, stinky, dirty, manure-filled rotten remnants. He waters it with tears. Yours--and His. Because He knows how much it hurts. Because He knows how much it cost. Because He knows how much you’re worth it all. And He keeps tilling. And He will keep tilling. So don’t give up! God’s not done.
We have a hard time enduring because our bodies are weak. We get tired. We get overwhelmed. We get worn out. We just flat out get sick of it, but God’s child-like enduring love says, “Do it again!” He doesn’t see the monotony because He doesn’t grow tired. He isn’t weak. He isn’t overwhelmed. He doesn’t get worn out by the day to day. He’s not angry that your heart’s soil isn’t done yet. He’s with you every day, and He will be with you every day. You don’t have to understand what He’s doing because more than likely you won’t until after the fact, but just show up every day. Give Him your “rocky,” weedy”, “thorny” heart, and He’ll take care of you. He will love you. He will till your heart’s soil. He will not give up on you.
“He who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 1:6)