I keep a blog for my youth ministry students and parents , where I try to regularly post previews of what is to come for our weekly programs. This week, we’ll be talking about the Parable of the Soils. I thought I’d re-post this week’s preview article since, for me, the message in Jesus’ teaching here was particularly moving, especially coming off the coat tails of my last post about evangelism.
I don’t have much of a green thumb. I’d like to, but there always seems to be something getting in the way of me cultivating my gardening skills – weather, new baby, cash flow, motivation – and I then find myself in the produce section of Walmart knowing that the over-priced tomatoes I’m about to buy will be squishy and tasteless. And don’t even get me started on the peaches.
We rent our home, so there is little obligation to do any landscaping beyond keeping the lawn in order. But in the spirit of making a house a home, we decided to do a few minor improvements this spring and summer. I dug some trenches, laid eco-friendly siding, poured mulch, and even planted some wild flowers (planting wild flowers: a self-defeating statement, I know).
Previous tenants had left one section of a back yard a mess, near the foundation of our back porch. There was exposed, jagged concrete sticking out. In an effort to hide the ugliness, I planted some iris around it, hoping they would grow tall and cover up the imperfections of the foundation. I even bought a smelly bag of fertilized garden soil to beef up the planting ground. But the day after I planted the iris, we had one of those torrential KC downpours. It was like God had been holding in a heaping mouthful of water, heard a funny joke, and spat it all over my house. When I looked outside, I realized that I had planted the iris right underneath the corner of our rain gutters, where they were damaged, and the entire runoff from the roof had gone directly onto the spot where I had planted the iris. The iris now lay about twenty feet down the hill in my neighbors yard, following a messy trail of fertilized garden soil runoff, leaving behind it a smelly, muddy mess of mud and exposed concrete. I tried to replant the iris in that same spot, but without the soil (no way I’m going back to buy another bag), it quickly died from exposure.
My iris garden was a living parable of the soils. Without question, that iris had no chance in the conditions I had planted it. It was not put in an environment where it could become hearty and thrive.
Maybe our youth group is similar in some respects.
Many of our youth have grown up in this church. People have been sowing really good seed on them for a long time – but the hardness, shallowness, and crowdedness of their lives (school, part time jobs, extra curricular activities, friends, etc.) might be inhibiting real growth. The good news is this: Hard ground can be broken. Shallow ground can be deepened. And thorny ground can be weeded. Students can become more receptive to the Bible and more fruitful in their lives if we are willing to do the work to make their environment more of a catalyst for spiritual growth.
I could have taken a closer look at the environment I was planting the iris in. I could have repaired the rain gutter. I could have built up a small retaining wall to prevent the ground from giving way. I could have broken up the soil so that the iris would be able to take root. But I didn’t do any of that. Instead, in the interest of quickly covering up the ugly, jagged imperfections of my home’s foundation, I just threw the plant into shallow ground and watched it die.
“You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you to go and bear fruit—fruit that will last” (John 15:16 NIV).