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A Key Step for Fertile Soil

Then he told them many things in parables, saying: “A farmer went out to sow his seed. As he was scattering the seed, some fell along the path, and the birds came and ate it up. Some fell on rocky places, where it did not have much soil. It sprang up quickly, because the soil was shallow. But when the sun came up, the plants were scorched, and they withered because they had no root. Other seed fell among thorns, which grew up and choked the plants. Still other seed fell on good soil, where it produced a crop—a hundred, sixty or thirty times what was sown.
Matthew 13:3-8

It is easy to think that the fourth soil was just sitting there, ready made, but in reality, good soil invites growth of nearly any kind. Therefore, the soil had to be prepared. In particular, it had to be plowed, turned over, aerated, the old growth buried to fertilize the new seeds.

This sounds all fine and good, unless you think about it from the soil’s perspective. You’re lying there, comfortable, set, compact, when all of a sudden a metal blade cuts through you and upsets everything. It doesn’t just pass once and move on, but makes a series of regular cuts until you are completely displaced, your innermost hidden parts are now torn up and exposed. Doesn’t sound like so much fun now?

In the parable, the soil is a picture of our hearts. Years ago, Pastor Tommy Nelson of Denton Bible Church gave a message to a convention of Christian college students entitled, “Trials: God’s Required Curriculum.” That about says it all doesn’t it?

If our hearts are going to produce new and good fruit, then they need be tilled, plowed, made ready for new seed with our old habits, old attitudes plowed under. It is usually a painful process, but it is necessary for the old to make way for the new. The more entrenched the old growth, the deeper and more complete the plowing required.

Fortunately or unfortunately, this process nearly always requires God’s active hand in our lives. We are usually too timid with ourselves to cut deeply enough to do the job right. As Lewis describes it in “The Voyage of the Dawn Treader,” Eustace is a rather bully of a boy who finds himself turned into a dragon by a curse, and while it helped change his character, it had some rather disagreeable aspects to it. Aslan the Lion appears, and aids him as the following passage describes:

"The water was as clear as anything and I thought if I could get in there and bathe it would ease the pain in my leg. but the lion told me I must undress first. Mind you, I don’t know if he said any words out loud or not.

I was just going to say that I couldn't undress because I hadn't any clothes on when I suddenly thought that dragons are snaky sort of things and snakes can cast their skins. Oh, of course, thought I, that's what the lion means. So I started scratching myself and my scales began coming off all over the place. And then I scratched a little deeper and , instead of just scales coming off here and there, my whole skin started peeling off beautifully, like it does after an illness, or as if I was a banana. In a minute or two I just stepped out of it. I could see it lying there beside me, looking rather nasty. It was a most lovely feeling. So I started to go down into the well for my bathe.

But just as I was going to put my feet into the water I looked down and saw that they were all hard and rough and wrinkled and scaly just as they had been before. Oh, that's all right, said I, it only means I had another smaller suit on underneath the first one, and I'll have to get out of it too. So I scratched and tore again and this underskin peeled off beautifully and out I stepped and left it lying beside the other one and went down to the well for my bathe.

Well, exactly the same thing happened again. And I thought to myself, oh dear, how ever many skins have I got to take off? For I was longing to bathe my leg. So I scratched away for the third time and got off a third skin, just like the two others, and stepped out of it. But as soon as I looked at myself in the water I knew it had been no good.

Then the lion said - but I don't know if it spoke - 'You will have to let me undress you.' I was afraid of his claws, I can tell you, but I was pretty nearly desperate now. So I just lay flat down on my back to let him do it.

The very first tear he made was so deep that I thought it had gone right into my heart. And when he began pulling the skin off, it hurt worse than anything I've ever felt. The only thing that made me able to bear it was just the pleasure of feeling the stuff peel off. You know - if you've ever picked the scab of a sore place. It hurts like billy-oh but it is such fun to see it coming away.

Well, he peeled the beastly stuff right off - just as I thought I'd done it myself the other three times, only they hadn't hurt - and there it was lying on the grass: only ever so much thicker, and darker, and more knobbly-looking than the others had been. And there was I as smooth and soft as a peeled switch and smaller than I had been. Then he caught hold of me - I didn't like that much for I was very tender underneath now that I'd no skin on - and threw me into the water. It smarted like anything but only for a moment. After that it became perfectly delicious and as soon as I started swimming and splashing I found that all the pain had gone from my arm. And then I saw why. I'd turned into a boy again. You'd think me simply phoney if I told you how I felt about my own arms. I know they've no muscle and are pretty mouldy compared with Caspian's, but I was so glad to see them.

After a bit the lion took me out and dressed me - (with his paws?) - Well, I don't exactly remember that bit. But he did somehow or other: in new clothes - the same I've got on now, as a matter of fact. and then suddenly I was back here. Which is what makes me think it must have been a dream."

One last thought. Soil needs plowing before each growing season, so it is not a ‘once all’ job. It is like working out your muscles in a gym—the exercise rips and damages muscle fiber. But the resting and healing between sessions is where the growth in strength occurs.

Plow then grow. Rip then strengthen. I’m sure with thought we can come up with many parallels. Maybe it is no accident that God made so many physical representations of this spiritual truth. What do you think? Maybe that means we should pay attention, expect, and welcome trials like He repeatedly encourages us to in Scripture.

Like they say in the weight room, “Feel the burn. Love the burn.”


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