My husband and I decided to plant a vegetable garden this year. Actually, I casually suggested that we should plant a vegetable garden, and then my sweet husband built us a planter, researched “compost” and “nitrogen” and “carbon” and lots of other garden words. While he’s been poring over gardening websites and NPR gardening specials, I have also been busy with equally important, garden-related business. Like day dreaming about grocery bags so overflowing with our garden’s future bounty that after finishing a little Caprese salad, I frolick through the neighborhood to dole out fresh produce to all.
Two summers ago I decided to “plant a garden.” I use quotes because…do you know what I did to “plant my garden?” I bought a packet of seeds. I threw some in the clay dirt on the side of our backyard, sprinkled some water around where the seed was. Want to hear something shocking? Nothing grew out of that seed that was placed in cement dirt and never watered. I can’t imagine what went wrong. Faulty seeds, obviously.
Flash forward to me watching my husband learn how to garden. Do you know what he has explained to me about gardening 101? Apparently, good soil is CRUCIAL to the growth of any kind of vegetation. So crucial, in fact, that we (ok, fine, he) spent weeks breaking up the dirt underneath where the planter would be, shopping for topsoil and making compost before we could even look at a seed.
Coincidentally (or perhaps as a divinely-timed illustration), our small group is going through a study right now that asked us to read the parable of the sower and identify which soil we are. Easy enough, I thought. I remembered this parable, probably read it a dozen times. Since I call myself a Christian, I thought I could pre-conclude that I am the good soil. And then I actually reread the parable:
“The farmer sows the word. 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. Others, like seed sown on rocky places, hear the word and at once receive it with joy. 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. Still others, like seed sown among thorns, hear the word; 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. 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.”
I couldn’t help but freak out a little bit when I read this. I wholeheartedly consider myself a Christian woman, wife and mother. I know that we’re commanded, “Test yourselves to see if you are in the faith; examine yourselves!” (2 Corinthians 13:5) But do I? James 1:27 tells us “Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world.” How much of my life – the day-to-day stuff – is me, looking after orphans and widows? And how much of it is me being polluted by the world? Does my life produce a crop? Or do the worries of this life, the deceitfulness of wealth and the desires for other things come in and choke the word in my life? Where is my fruit?
Most of these soil scenarios – rocky, thorny, good – refer to people who call themselves “Christians.” Jesus is not admonishing the non-believers here. He’s looking at the very people who think they get it. The church-goers. The bible-study attenders. The bumper-sticker wearers.
You guys, how easy is it to get caught up in worries, wealth and other things, especially as a wife and mom? I worry about my kids every day. After my oldest was born, for about a month we thought she had a rare auto-immune disease. She didn’t. But I can assure you, my worries were more abundant than the fruit I bore in this season. My 3-year-old son broke his leg a month ago. I worried about his pain, my ability to parent three small kids, two of whom do not walk. I worried about the cost of a trip to the emergency room. Worry, worry, worry.
What would our generation of wives and moms look like if we took the admonishing of Mark 4 seriously, rejecting the worries of this life in favor of surrendering those worries to the One who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine? (Ephesians 3:20)
Proverbs 31:25 says that a worthy woman “smiles at the future.” Um. Yes, please. I’d much prefer to be this smiling, confident woman instead of the frazzled, worried mother of wild animals in toddler suits.
“She opens her mouth in wisdom, and the teaching of kindness is on her tongue.” (v. 26) When you open your mouth, what comes out? Worries of this life, pursuit of wealth, desires for other things? Or is it wisdom, are you teaching kindness? What’s your soil like? Where’s your fruit?
Our early gardening endeavors have taught me a few things: 1.) Nothing grows in lousy soil. 2.) You have to put in some work to get those heirlooms. Yank the thorns, water the soil, pull out the rocks. Now let’s go tend our gardens.