Saturday, November 01, 2008

Where Life Happens

If I had to describe God in a single word, I would choose "love." Then again, I more often say, "life." In the depths of his person, it seems the two concepts are interpenetrating and largely overlap. Anyway, the word I'm thinking of today... is "life."

Jesus once told a story about life and how it happens. It went like this, "Once a sower went out to sow. As he sowed, some seeds fell around the road; and the birds came and ate them up. Other seeds fell on the rocky places without much soil and immediately sprang up; but they withered when the sun rose because they had no root. Others fell among the weeds which choked them out. Finally, some seeds fell on good soil and produced fruit, some a hundredfold, some sixty, and some thirty" (Matthew 13).

Later, Jesus explains this parable is really about spiritual life. The kind of inner life source that gives new life to our heart, mind, and (soon enough) bodies. He says the seed is the message of God's "kingdom" and the soils are the kinds of people who hear it.

The soil "around the road" is the hard heart, made impervious to life's seed by the habitual action of closing it off, ignoring it, desensitizing it, and shutting it down. It's not open or perhaps even able to receive life because of its previous conditioning. It was once good soil; but now, it's the hardest soil of all.

The rocky, shallow soil is the emotional believer. They have no root, no depth, no real relationship with the seed or sower, and so no sustainable life. There is a temporary rush of excitement that looks life the promise of life; but it's quickly extinguished when the person loses interest or when the life and relationship behind it are tested. Soon, it becomes clear that the kingdom life had never actually penetrated the heart. It had only caught the fleeting fancy of the person, as countless other stimulating experiences have done in the past and will do in the future.

The weedy soil is the one who wants to add Christ's life and kingdom to another life and kingdom they already have living in their hearts. Soon, however, the individual discovers that the two kingdoms aren't compatible with each other. One focuses on Christ and is utterly dependent on him. The other focuses on self and clings to independence. One life must go. Unfortunately, in this case, it's Christ's life. The weeds stay, growing and depleting the soil while offering no fruit in return.

And then there is the good soil. It's ready. It is either done with rocks and weeds or was fortunate enough to have few of them to begin with. The seed falls on this soil and the message of Christ's life and kingdom is understood and received. The seed grows and grows and continues to grow... becoming a strong, deeply rooted life, that produces life-giving, life-sustaining fruit.

When this soil and seed come together, it results in ever-increasing life. It results in a life that flows in and life flows out. It results in a life that was once a ready recipient but has now become a mature sower of seeds.

Many of us have become, by God's love and grace, matured (while still growing) sowers in this world. We meet people and love them but never fully know what kind of soil they are or what kind of soil they will become. Some were hard, but, by God's loving intervention, are now merely weedy or rocky... perhaps on their way to becoming ready, or "good" soil.

I used to work with a young, hard- and weedy-soil kind of guy named Justin. During our months together, I had many opportunities to share Christ, pray, and express some love. When I left that job site, I was sad at the thought that Justin would probably never find Christ. Yesterday, Justin called me. He's in the Army now and has either accepted Christ or is about to at any moment. Staunchly anti-anything God... he's now eagerly participating in both Catholic and Protestant services and seeking Christ with a fervor I never thought I would see. He is becoming (or has perhaps already become) ready soil. Life is about to take root in him.

Seeds get sown. Soils change. Life happens in strange places. It takes root in the small patches of ready soil that are peculiarly not too far from roads or rocks or weeds.

Abba, thanks for Justin! Keep going, Lord! And make these hard, rocky, weedy soils ready for you! ...Linda, Liz and Charlie, Tracy, D, Jeff and Matt, Evelyn, Brandon and Gina, Samantha, Ash and Janice, Sue.

You are the God who "gives life to the dead and calls into being that which does not exist" (Romans 4:17). You can make these soils change. You can make them ready. We're asking you to do that, Abba. We need you to do that! And we love you for wanting to do that.

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