Sunday, October 07, 2007

Living a Parable

Reading along further in The Greatest Story, I come to Luke 8/Mark 4 where Jesus tells the story of a sower who throws seed out into all kinds of different soils. Only one kind of soil actually produces much fruit, while the rest meet with failure for different reasons.

I can easily recognize my own history in each of the soils:

I have been the roadside soil, where the words of God have bounced off of me and done no good whatsoever. When I was a child I heard some pretty clear preaching from some genuinely evangelistic folks. Somehow it did nothing for me for many years.

I have also been the rocky soil, which received the word and showed an impulse towards God, followed by a complete obliviousness to his presence. I recall a time as a young boy when I was deeply moved by an experience at an Episcopalian camp. I came home and built a little makeshift altar out of sticks and wept and prayed and sang to the Lord. I never wanted to lose that feeling. I think I was twelve or thirteen. Didn't last long, though. Didn't take root. My adolescence quickly crowded out any spiritual inclinations and I went back to "normal."

I'm pretty sure I know what it's like to be the third soil, too. The older I get, the more I know what it's like to have the worries of the world and the lust for things choking out all spiritual fruitfulness.

Come to think of it, I suspect this is why the kind of church life I have been pursuing for the last several years has such a hard time taking root in American soil. I suspect that we of all people are the most distracted by our own affluence. We are easily stupefied by our glittering shopping malls and digital entertainment. Our clothes, our I-phones and I-pods, our YouTube, our cable TV, our soft drinks and chocolate, our sex-and-violence drenched television shows. It's no wonder we have a hard time seeing truly deep works of God among us.

I say all this with a heavy heart, because I don't feel any of this strongly enough to give it all up. I kinda like my stuff. I get some relaxation out of it all after a hard day of trying to educate unwilling adolescents. These things grab us because they offer a measure of peace and pleasure.

So what do we do about all of this? Well, this parable makes me wonder how these soils became so different from one another. I have always felt that the main difference between each of these soils is that of preparation. Each one of them had been through different situations leading up to the planting of the seeds. One had no preparation at all. Another maybe had some once, but that was a long time ago. The one that bore fruit was the one that had been worked by someone into fit soil. Weeds had been removed; rocks had been sifted out. Probably some careful tending preceded this planting so that this one place would be ready to receive this seed and make good use of it.

I think the same things works for us. The times in my life when I have received His words with an open heart were the times preceded by some preliminary work on His part. He skillfuly choreographed a number of things which led me to the place that I was ready to hear what He had to say, and respond with willing and enduring authenticity. Some of what happened was unpleasant. I imagine tilling soil would hurt the soil if it had feelings.

So that's what I'm expecting. I hunger and thirst for his righteousness, and I will never be satisfied with anything less. I have tasted of His goodness, and I'll never be totally okay with substitutes. But He tends to arrange things so that our hunger moves to center stage. He tends to take the shine off of all the other things that would draw us, and then we turn to our true source of life and remember why we are here in the first place.

For my part, I'm going to try to spend some time listening to my insides, remembering the hunger that is there, and the need that I have to find Him and hear His voice inside me.

Most of all, I need to hear the sound of that voice. That is what we all need. It all comes down to that.

More on that soon...

6 Comments:

Blogger J. Samuel Thomas said...

Hi brother

Susan has a great book called 'The Shack' (she borrowed it from us)that goes into the exact thing that you are talking about.

It's very well written and has a way of drawing you into the story, and consequently, into Him.

The writer talks quite a bit about working in the garden together with Jesus...
it's a union thing...
anyway,
ask her about it if you are interested.
I think you would love it.

Peace!

2:20 PM  
Blogger Mike Morrell said...

I second Johnny, The Shack is amazing...and, great post! That soil is within all of us, a great spin on the parable. Could it possibly mean that the seed'll eventually take root in each and every one of us, too? We can hope...

Keep on postin'...

10:41 PM  
Blogger Neil said...

Speaking of spin...

I didn't actually say that the soils are within all of us. I said that I recognize each of those soils IN ME.

But whatever helps you sleep, man ;-)

2:27 PM  
Blogger Mike Morrell said...

So all the soils are only in the regenerate (or eventually-regenerate), but everyone else only has the 'bad' soils?

Tee-hee!

PS: What's this I hear about a joint Jacksonville/Lithia/Raleigh New Year's?

11:11 AM  
Blogger Jasmin said...

I need some pictures of the newest Carter addition!!!

11:44 AM  
Blogger J. Samuel Thomas said...

The neat thing is that He seems to be throwing the seed out regardless of the 'soil quality'.

What a great picture of the Nature of God.

He is offering it to all!

As the parable teaches (and as Jesus explains), some ground is ideal (ready) and some is not.

Something to consider...
Is it ever the grounds 'fault' for not being ready?

Am I stretching this parable too far?

Just an honest question.

12:13 PM  

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