The story was so familiar, I was tempted to pass over, not hear or ponder it one more time. But familiar things, the tried and true, tend to be what I and my family need most– not the latest idea, newest teaching or passing fad. What is best for me, is usually sensible, ordinary things– like brushing my teeth, cleaning up after myself or paying bills on time. But wouldn’t I rather do the more interesting, than the mundane– the exciting or entertaining, like shopping online, scanning facebook or watching another movie? I neglect the simple type of things, until I have a terrible taste in my mouth, a mess on my hands or interest due; and I again remember these things are good for me.
When I was at camp the story went something like this (with planters to demonstrate)…
A man went out to plant some seeds. As he scattered, some landed on a hard path.
The birds came and ate it up. The seed was no longer there.
Some seed the man scattered, fell on rocky soil. The seed sprang up, only to wither. Where was the water it needed? There was none.
Other seed landed among the thorns. As it grew, the thorns left no room for it to grow and mature. It was choked out… slowly… killing it.
“He who has ears let him hear.” Luke 8
The ordinary and familiar, new again
This time of year the crepe myrtles are blooming. While walking in my neighborhood the other day, they seemed to peer around each corner, bow over each fence and grace almost every yard.
As I plant different kinds in my yard, I hope for lots of colors and lots of blooms. Even though these trees are hearty, there are still some things they need, of course, to produce such dazzling flowers. Though they appear year after year, I am still struck by their color and variety.
There is an explanation of this story. This is where I can yawn, and say in my mind, “I know, I have heard this before.” But something stills my heart; like those profuse blooms, I want enduring fruit and growth in my life and in my family’s life– so I turn in curiosity.
The seed the man sowed I am told, is the word of God. The different types of ground represent different kinds of people, different kinds of hearts Jesus says. In the first, the word of God “lands” on a person that is like a hard path. They hear, yet the enemy (Satan) comes and takes it from them. They do not believe. The seed is gone.
In the second, the word of God comes to a person that is like rocky soil. They hear and are excited about it for a little bit and believe, but not long enough for there to be strong, deep roots. Soon, things tempt them and draw them away.
In the third, the word of God is heard by a person that is like the soil with the thorns. The seed takes root but doesn’t go deep enough, for they begin to get choked slowly by the ways of the world– money, people’s opinions, entertainment… There is some fruit, but it doesn’t mature.
In the fourth, the word of God is heard by a person that is like good soil. They not only hear it, but remain in it– and enduring, they bear much fruit.
All four, have the word scattered. All four hear. But the outcome is not the same. It would be like planting four crepe myrtles in the fall. One does nothing, just dies as soon as it is planted. Another lasts longer, but dies when it is not watered. The third grows, but when summer comes with the heat and scorching wind, it withers away. The fourth, becomes like the trees in my neighborhood. All four are planted, but not all four bear beautiful blooms for years to come. I would want to know what the difference is between the four trees, for, I want the fourth kind in my yard. Which soil is my life– hard, rocky, thorny or good? I want to be the good soil, of course.
What kind of hearing bears fruit?
I know there are different kinds of “hearing.” My kids make me aware of this. They call me out when they notice I respond with, “Ah-ha, yeah, ah-ha,” as I am absorbed in something else and not listening to them. In this type of hearing, I am not really listening or engaging. It is the same when I hear the above story and say, “I have heard this before. This is not new. Yawn.” There is a difference between this and a hearing that involves an attentive listening. The good soil person has more of an eagerness to hear and absorb, and a willingness to apply. This is the kind of hearing I want in my life.
What keeps me from hearing?
All four hear, but only one continues to grow and produce fruit. Each has a different soil. One has no roots. Another does not have deep roots. The third is concerned too much about the cares of the world. I think sometimes my busy schedule has little margin in it, so I don’t have the time I need to “hear” well. I don’t think I am busier than the next person, but I know I need to create more margin so I can listen attentively. I also notice when I have too many worries on my mind, these absorb me so there is little room for absorbing God’s word. Along the way, other things become more interesting, than disciplining myself to attentive hearing of God’s word. I need to be hearing it for myself. It is easy to listen to another podcast for “good teaching” than to discover how to eagerly feed myself daily and deeply in God’s word. But too often, my heart is kind of hard and needs to be broken up, so the roots can grow deeper. If my roots do not continue to grow deeper the fruit will be small and less mature. I want my roots to grow deep.
- Is the word sown becoming too familiar, mundane and common?
- Is it becoming the norm to turn to other books, and popular podcasts, instead of hearing the word with eagerness?
- Is my longing for other things– more finances, a relationship, ease, or making a name for myself becoming more predominant in my life?
When things do become too mundane and ordinary, it is easy for apathy to set in or our “hearing” to change. Possibly, the soil is a little too hard, needs to be broken up and nourishment added. I don’t desire a tree barely surviving in my yard, but a tree that has vibrant, lasting blooms year, after year.
Having good soil goes back to the familiar. Usually, when my soil becomes dry or I begin losing my “hearing,”one of the following are nor present:
Confessing my sins daily as they come up.
Having a regular time in God’s word.
Seeking community with others who are also tending their soil.
Hearing with an attentive, eager heart, and ready to apply.
What do I need to add to my soil?
How is the soil of my heart? What from the list above do I need to add to my soil? As my soil is transformed, roots go deeper, my hearing become more attentive, fruit grows and becomes abundant. Incredible fruit is produced. I know I want to see more fruit in my life. I do want to be displaying love. I want my patience, peace and kindness to grow. I want to be eager to listen to God’s word on my own. I want to see the word being shared from me with others. I want to see works done for His name.
The story says the fruit is, “A hundred fold.”
What if I heard like this?
- Willingness to hear
- Listening with curiosity
- Allowing it to absorb
- Readiness to apply
What if I heard God’s word daily, reading it for myself, and allowing it to absorb and penetrate my heart? What if I listened attentively and actively applied it? What if a gave more margin in my life to hear it and absorb it? One heard and the fruit was there, but small and not mature. It could be so much more. Hearing with good soil produces ample, abundant fruit that is continually maturing.
Hearing which produces life change in me and those around me.
It makes me think about my hero, Corrie ten Boom. As she and her sister read what they had of God’s word (just pieces and pages of the New Testament) in the dark, filthy barracks of the concentration camp– hope was kindled, lives were changed and forgiveness was given among many other things. God was changing her heart and the hearts around her. Years later she would continue to see and hear about fruit God produced in people’s lives from the bright, little sanctuary in the middle of the gloom of death. Hearing produces life change in us and changes the world around us.
What am I going to do when I hear the familiar? Am I ready to transform the soil of my heart? Am I willing to regularly read and apply God’s word? If so, the soil will become good and continually nourished. The fruit comes, which God produces. This is not necessarily the fruit or “success” the world counts (moving up the ladder, graduating with the best job ever, getting your name or word out there, etc). Yet, once tasted we want more. It is a fruit that lasts and continues in the days ahead– just like the blooms that will come again next year.