Earlier this week I was looking back through an old journal of mine (before I was willing to share my writing with others) from 2006. Interestingly, I found that on this very date six years ago I was meditating on the Parable of the Sower from today’s passage. I share here now what I wrote six years ago.
How did these soils get this way? The simple answer is that each soil had an owner that created its condition, and in this parable the owner clearly is not God.
The “pathway” heart-soil has become hardened by the actions and choices of the owner and others. Pathways are picked by an owner as soil that will purposely be trampled upon and rendered incapable of sustaining a crop. Then these paths are worn through repeated use. The owner directs others to use that same pathway, and trespassers will even use a path if available. Habitual sin, misuse of our bodies and souls with others, and even unwanted abuse harden our hearts so that we will not listen to God’s word of truth. We chose to use what was created to be pure and fruitful in degrading and harmful ways or — in one of those hard to rectify speeches of the Lord — others are allowed to snatch away from us, through abuse, the hope and love and truth we so desperately need.
The “rocky” heart-soil has not been prepared for the long growing season. Whether from laziness or a desire to see an immediate result from his plantings, the farmer has failed to dig out the rocks that will stunt the growth of his immature plants, causing them to wither in the hot, dry summer months. These plants are simply unable to reach the deep reservoirs of water below the rocks. When we move too quickly from one spiritual high to another, trading an emotional high for the disciplines and experiences that really mature faith in the dry heat of suffering and divine silence, we produce heart-soil in which the fledgling sprouts of faith will also quickly wither. In today’s world, our greatest obstacle to the deep reservoir of Spirit-water is our hunger for immediate gratification. We are content to soak up the jolt of a worship experience but refuse to learn to control one’s anger.
The owner of the “thorny” heart-soil has also failed to prepare his land for successful growth. The owner did not pull up the faster-growing, hardier thorns, allowing them to compete with the more tender grain shoots; this owner has simply tried to sow a new crop amongst existing plants. Given that the thorns are identified as “worries” but also “riches and pleasures” it would seem that some of these thorns have intentionally been left to live alongside the grain shoots. Both grain and thorns receive rain, nutrients, and sunlight, allowing competition to arise, but the thorns thrive. When we fail to uproot the attitudes, desires, and behaviors contrary to the Way of Christ attempting only to add Christ to an already hardy life of worry, excess, and selfishness, our immature faith will flounder under the competition. The Spirit will not live in a divided heart.
The owner of the “good, pure” heart-soil has prepared his plot with wisdom, effort, and patience. He has removed the rocks and thorns, and loosened any packed soil before planting. He tucked the seed into the soil away from the birds. His plants will find moisture and room to grow deep. His plants will remain free from competition. We enrich our heart-soil for bountiful growth when we break the bonds of habitual sin; when we use our bodies and souls as they were intended; when we avoid abuse (to the degree we can); when we realize crop preparation is a time-intensive, long-term endeavor; when we patiently foster disciplines that feed our faith and cherish faith-stretching experiences; when we replace worry with trust; and when we uproot a life of selfish ambition and carnal gratification.