Hope Among the Thorns!
I love how Holy Spirit has a way of giving us fresh revelation from the same story again and again. Recently I joined a women’s group at church that is studying Matthew 13:1-10 and Matthew 13:18-23, the Parable of the Sower. It was my first day with the group and I smiled when I heard what they were studying, because I was saved at around 8 years old through hearing that parable. It has meant so much to me over the years.
I grew up gardening with my Mom in Southern California. Now when I say, I grew up gardening, I mean that my Mom had a truly green thumb and loved to plant things, especially from seed, and see them grow, and that I got to do a lot of weeding and yard work and observing of Mom.
In addition to seed planting, Mom also had a habitual transgression into thievery. By which I mean, on neighborhood walks, when seeing a plant growing through a fence or a volunteer plant growing outside a fence, she would either pull up the volunteer and take it home, or break off a piece of the trespasser because she knew that she could get it to take root and thrive wherever she planted it.
Whenever we would ask how she had gotten a particular plant to grow, she would say, “Oh, you just break a piece at the Y of the branch, like this, “Chick!” and then you use a little rooter and put it in water until it roots. Then plant it in some good soil and take care of it.” Well, my siblings, in-laws, cousins, neighbors and I have tried this over the years with little success. We’ve all decided that the key to success is in the “Chick!”
Many years later I moved to rural Texas and for the first time got serious about vegetable gardening. I built raised beds and instead of just weeding and picking up, I began to learn about soil amendments and composting and even took the steps to get soil samples tested so I could add just the right ingredients to make my veggies thrive. In Southern California, if you water your plants, they grow. In Texas, between pasture-cracking droughts, frog-drowning floods, and spring weather that can freeze or scorch, sometimes in the same week, it’s a little more challenging.
The lifestyle change from city to country living had me in a state of constant learning. Though I’d been studying the Bible for years by then, the new awareness of agricultural principles illuminated many pages of scripture I had simply passed over in previous years.
One day when I was weeding around the outside of my garden, I pulled up, for the umpteenth time a very thorny weed that poked my fingers right through my leather gloves. I never had that weed inside my raised beds, but it sure grew quickly right outside where the overspray from the hose gave it a little encouragment.
One day I saw a TV special on pasture management. (Yes, I watched that on purpose!) It was discussing the perils of overgrazing and how when soil is depleted, thorny mesquites or other leguminous plants take over quickly. These plants are so hard to get rid of once they start, but they have one valuable trait. They fix Nitrogen back into the depleted soil actually improving it for future years.
Now, these are probably not exactly the thorn types Jesus was talking about in the Parable of the Sower. But I found it interesting and hopeful, that although the seeds that fall among the thorny plants do not produce fruit, it is possible, if we keep on sowing that at some point, the soil in the heart of our friend or family member who has been hanging out among the thorns, may be ready to receive those seeds, grow some deep roots and end up producing fruit.
I shared this insight with the group that day. A lady got up to the microphone after me and said that I had given her new understanding. She had not grown up in a Christian home or anything close to it. In fact, her home-life and youth had been quite the opposite. So, over the years, she had always wondered how her heart had been good soil to receive the word. Now she understood that God used those thorny years to make her heart ready!
Love perseveres. Keep loving them, keep sowing into their lives, and keep hope alive! Jesus is able.