by June Friesen
As I have contemplated the theme of this Lenten season that of building a positive life as one tears down walls I was reminded of Jesus story about the soils in Mark 4.
4 3-8“Listen. What do you make of this? A farmer planted seed. As he scattered the seed, some of it fell on the road and birds ate it. Some fell in the gravel; it sprouted quickly but didn’t put down roots, so when the sun came up it withered just as quickly. Some fell in the weeds; as it came up, it was strangled among the weeds and nothing came of it. Some fell on good earth and came up with a flourish, producing a harvest exceeding his wildest dreams.
9 “Are you listening to this? Really listening?”
10-12 When they were off by themselves, those who were close to him, along with the Twelve, asked about the stories. He told them, “You’ve been given insight into God’s kingdom—you know how it works. But to those who can’t see it yet, everything comes in stories, creating readiness, nudging them toward a welcome awakening. These are people—
Whose eyes are open but don’t see a thing,
Whose ears are open but don’t understand a word,
Who avoid making an about-face and getting forgiven.”
13 He continued, “Do you see how this story works? All my stories work this way.
14-15 “The farmer plants the Word. Some people are like the seed that falls on the hardened soil of the road. No sooner do they hear the Word than Satan snatches away what has been planted in them.
16-17 “And some are like the seed that lands in the gravel. When they first hear the Word, they respond with great enthusiasm. But there is such shallow soil of character that when the emotions wear off and some difficulty arrives, there is nothing to show for it.
18-19 “The seed cast in the weeds represents the ones who hear the kingdom news but are overwhelmed with worries about all the things they have to do and all the things they want to get. The stress strangles what they heard, and nothing comes of it.
20 “But the seed planted in the good earth represents those who hear the Word, embrace it, and produce a harvest beyond their wildest dreams.”
You may wonder what does this story have to say about walls – breaking down walls? I find this story captivating as I consider what it means for me in my life to break down walls that I have constructed, allowed others to construct in my life, or adopted from others. When I meditate upon it I find there is always new truth to be found and explored. I especially want to concentrate on weeds here, however I can see hard soil and rocks as being issues as well when it comes to having walls that make life unmanageable or challenging.
In our lives as well as around us there are times when there are walls that are made of stone. While there are times that they may give protection, there are also times when it is not so much protection but isolation that is the result. There are times when isolation may be a good thing such, as when one needs time to be alone with God for an extended time. Jesus did that from time to time – the one we are most familiar with is when He went into the desert for 40 days by Himself. When one has a physically weakened immune system and there is a highly contagious illness present there may be/is need for isolation. From time to time our spirits may be in need of isolation alone with God for renewal, for empowering, for a new infilling from God. However one should not choose to hide away from living a productive life on earth.
Then there are times when one does not make time to open their spirit for further seed to be planted. For example, does God have something new for us to learn from His Scriptures that we did not know or see before? Yet we reject it because it is unfamiliar. Our spirit is often unyielding to accept new beginnings, new ideas and/or new ways of looking at things and/or people. There are times when I meet people and try to share with them something I have just learned from the Scripture I was reading but they refuse to listen because it is different than what has been taught for the last hundred or thousands of years.
Then there is the soil that is full of weeds. I like to think of this as the person whose life is full of excuses – excuses as to why they do what they do, why they won’t do what they should do, why they won’t change what they think. Or they have not got time, or they have to take a nap, or they have to work 24/7 or they haven’t seen their friends in two weeks – more or less, or they have to go shopping etc. There are just too many things to do and if they do not do them no one else will, they will not get done right etc. Consequently, one allows the weeds of excuses to prevail and energize their life.
Then there is the good soil. This is the person who has an open heart to the things that God is wanting to do, is doing, and plans to do. It may not be but a dream at times, yet they feel compelled to believe God has a plan. These may be people that are referred to as dreamers, entrepreneurs, ‘thinking outside the box’, experimenters, etc. These are people who are listening to God and open to seeing where and how God is working and to go and join God. There may be those who watch in skepticism, who speak words of discouragement and possibly even condemnation, etc., but the good soil receives and gives way to sprouts, nurturing growth and then harvest rather than the weeds.
So this brings me to the point – how can you be a change agent? How can I be a change agent? How can I be a gardener for God’s kingdom here on earth today?
First of all I need to tend to my own garden. I need to take down any wall(s) that there may be between myself and God. Usually these are walls I have built or let others build. The walls need to be taken down so that I can attend the good plants and things. I need to make sure that I am fertilizing and watering my garden. This can be done by spending time with God in His word and in prayer – making regular time with Him. This is making sure that the ground of my spirit is worked regularly to keep sinful thoughts from taking sprout and growing or else they become the focus of my life. Thirdly I need to be diligent in not allowing ‘stuff’ to choke my godly spirit. For each one of us that may be something different. Some of us may have a longer list of ‘weeds’ than others – but it is not what or how many the weeds are. It is being willing to recognize the weeds for what they are and then to be willing to extract them from one’s life so our godly spirit can grow.
The next step I need is to allow the good plants to grow, be nurtured and produce fruit so that others can also be fed and encouraged in their walk with God. Often times it is a struggle to move forward in this area to get the new beginnings really started. This is where one needs to seek out ways to nourish and feed the spirit. There are several ways to do this and one does not need to employ all of them. One can gather ideas, make a list, and then explore the options that may work in your own life. Some options may be daily personal Bible reading/study and prayer, journaling, group Bible study, group prayer meetings, attending church regularly, reading a devotional book along with Scripture, listening to a sermon, listening to music, writing music, writing letters to God, taking a walk in nature, sitting on the beach, etc. One can use one of these or a combination, recognizing that others may not agree with our life changes or with our growing options. As we nurture the good, positive godly growing of character in our life we will see the weeds die out and go away. And that is where the last verse of the passage becomes truth – we will reap a good crop of righteous living. We will become a person who reflects the light of God just as the flower below reflects the light of the sun, Amen.
Photos and reflection by June Friesen. Scripture from The Message.
In the last few days of his life, Jesus moved from garden to garden from suffering to resurrection.
Join Christine Sine for a Lent retreat that reflects on this journey and prepares for the challenging week that follows Palm Sunday.