Some seed fell on hard ground, where the squirrels came and ate it (before the birds could get there); some fell on rocky soil, where no root could grow and it soon withered; some fell among thorns, where the thorns grew up and choked it; some fell on rich soil, and grew well, increasing and producing a good crop.
Which kind of soil are you? I suspect, like most of us, you have all kinds within you, and possibly potential for more good soil than you may realise.
So, where is your hard ground? Where does the seed fall on the path, and immediately get snatched away, by whatever squirrels or birds happen to be around? Do you have areas of resistance in you, where a seed might fall, but immediately disappear? What lies underneath? Does anything prevent the seed from taking root? It may be that some hard ground in you is necessary, protecting you from something you can’t handle at the moment. But if the hard ground is the result of stubbornness, resistance to the Word, or laziness is it worth going further?
Squirrels, in the form of distractions, are probably fairly normal, but when you realise you’ve been distracted, there is value in gently bringing yourself back.
What about the rocky soil? Can you root up any rocks that are preventing a root from growing? When you receive a seed with enthusiasm, how deep can you let it grow? Or do you think ‘oh, that’s wonderful, get really enthusiastic, and then drop it once the difficulties appear? Maybe the response of those around you, or the practical difficulties. It may be that these difficulties are real, genuine; or they may stop you moving forward, or something you need to let go of. But how deep are you allowing your roots to grow? What are the rocks in your life?
Do you have thorny ground in you? What is choking the word in you? What are you worried and anxious about? It may be that these are real worries; you’ve lost your job, and you don’t know how the bills will be paid. I’m not talking about those kind of worries so much. Worry and anxiety can develop a life of their own, and will always find something to worry about. I’ve lost count of the number of times I’ve been really anxious about something, and it’s all worked out fine. All that extra energy – gone in worry, when I could have used it to develop better soil. I’d give you an example, but I can’t actually remember one. Once it’s over – what was I worrying about? (and often then go on to something else… ). I don’t have any easy answers; there are none. Dealing with worry and anxiety isn’t easy. What are your thorns?
What about the rich soil? Trust me, you do have some rich soil in you. You may not realise it, but it will be there. We can manure it, and feed it; Lent is coming up, and maybe that’s a good time to look at how you might do that. Prayer, Bible study, reading are all ways we can manure our soil, and there are many ways to do this, even in lockdown. There are apps, websites and podcasts out there. Spiritual direction is also a possibility; dioceses will often have lists of people you can see (although possibly virtually at the moment).
Remember, it is probable that none of us can see the harvest we are producing. That’s okay; for God is our gardener, and the harvest is his. There may be a sense in which if we could see our own harvest, we might ruin it.
My aim is not to make you feel guilty, or force on you changes which are impossible or unhelpful, and may just make matters worse. They are merely some questions to help you think. None of us has perfect soil; that’s why we come to Jesus. In the meantime, next time you see a squirrel taking your birdseed, think – what have I forgotten to let go deeper?
Read Mark 4:1-20.