For Christmas this year, my husband gave me a book on raised bed gardening. He did so because the house we moved into last year had a raised bed in the back yard just waiting for me to unveil my green thumb. It was too late to plant anything for the summer but I started my adventure in time to have a fall garden which I had never done before. I did some things right, and I did some things wrong – learned from both. For instance, when it says thin out the plants that come up from seeds, you really need to thin them out if you want to bear a crop, no matter how much it pains you to pick and throw out perfectly healthy new seedlings. This book helped answer several questions and helps me feel more prepared to tackle a summer garden the farmer’s market will be envious of. And it starts with preparing the soil.
I have always loved the parables related to gardening and the soil in the Gospels. Mostly because they remind me of my grandfather, a master gardener, but also because Jesus made really good sense. However, I surprised myself my turning to a few verses in Isaiah to guide my thoughts this time. The verses below always bring me perspective when us humans starting getting too big for our britches. God’s plans and thoughts are so much bigger and better than mine or yours. And I find great comfort and trust in this truth.
My plans aren’t your plans,
nor are your ways my ways, says the Lord.
Just as the heavens are higher than the earth,
so are my ways higher than your ways,
and my plans than your plans.
Just as the rain and the snow come down from the sky
and don’t return there without watering the earth,
making it conceive and yield plants
and providing seed to the sower and food to the eater,
so is my word that comes from my mouth;
it does not return to me empty.
Instead, it does what I want,
and accomplishes what I intend.
Isaiah 55:8-11 (CEB)
Isaiah really lays it out there for us. Just as the rain and snow come down from the sky and provide what is needed to grow good things so is my word that comes from my mouth, continuing to work until it accomplishes my intended purposes. I paraphrase, of course.
God‘s Word is like the rain when it falls from the sky- it will impact the ground and its soil one way or another. It depends on the nature and condition of the soil as to how the water will be received on impact. When the soil is cultivated and aerated and is loose and open it will receive the rain and it will be renewed and refreshed and the water fully absorbed. Water will nurture and care for the critters and the roots in the soil. But when the soil or the ground is hard and packed the water will run off. It’s harder to penetrate. And it can lead to flooding. The water will keep moving until it lands in a place that can and will receive it.
God’s Word is so powerful that when it is spoken, it will land somewhere ready to receive it. God’s Word will continue to work and shape and form and challenge until it pierces through and impacts who God is trying to reach. Somehow, I find comfort in this when I look at the devastating pictures from Ukraine, or hear more news trying to tear down faithful leaders or glorify or preserve power. I want to know more about God’s plans, not the plans of men and women. I want to be part of accomplishing what God is trying to accomplish. I want to be a part of nurturing good in our world. In order to do that, I have to be ready to receive and comprehend what God’s plans are.
Our work during this season of Lent is to cultivate our soul. Lent falls at a time where (down the mountain at least) we are preparing the soil in our gardens and yards for planting vegetables and flowers. It’s also a season to cultivate the soil of our spirit, or our soul, so that it is ready to receive God‘s Word so we can hear it and understand or at least absorb it so it can nurture and guide us. If we don’t do this, friends we will be nothing more than a desert with a hard packed dry soul, languishing for Living Water.
If you don’t like to play in the dirt then you can leave your shovels, spades and compost alone. But you can pick up your Bible, make some quiet prayer time, listen to some contemplative music, light a candle and just breathe and listen, or whatever your soul needs for it to be open, aerated, loose and ready to absorb God’s Word and plans for you these next few weeks. It’s time. Winter is coming to an end. The cross is on the horizon. Time to tend your soul.