My parents and sister are in Colombia, South America this week. My dad goes every September with a group from their church, and he has fallen in love with the Colombian people, so much so that he listens to Spanish CDs during his commute because he wants to be less reliant on his translator. He’s even teaching Lydia a few Spanish words. During one of my cold runs early in the year, I said yes to God and yes to going to Colombia. Not long after, God used a story from the gospels to pierce my heart like little needles stuck in a pin cushion. The leader of the trip had asked me if I would be interested in leading a women’s retreat during our time in Colombia. Immediately this gospel story God had churning in my heart came to mind for those ladies.
Fast forward a few weeks later and a very surprising pregnancy test, and I knew it wouldn’t work out as far as timing for me to go to Colombia this year. But this message has still been on my heart for quite some time. Today, I want to share it with you. Maybe this is for someone out there reading. Maybe this is for my girls to read one day. Maybe this is just for me to process. But I hope God’s Word pierces you like it pierced me, and I hope one day I can share it with the women in Colombia.
Mark 4 and Luke 8 both tell the parable of the sower. From Mark 8 and the mouth of Jesus, “Listen! A farmer went out to sow his seed. As he was scattering the seed, some fell along the path, and the birds came and ate it up. Some fell on rocky places, where it did not have much soil. It sprang up quickly, because the soil was shallow. But when the sun came up, the plants were scorched, and they withered because they had no root. Other seed fell among thorns, which grew up and choked the plants, so that they did not bear grain. Still other seed fell on good soil. It came up, grew and produced a crop, multiplying thirty, sixty, or even a hundred times.”
Later, Jesus tells them, “Some people are like seed along the path, where the word is sown. As soon as they hear it, Satan comes and takes away the word that was sown in them. Others, like seed sown on rocky places, hear the word and at once receive it with joy. But since they have no root, they last only a short time. When trouble or persecution comes because of the word, they quickly fall away. Still others, like seed sown among thorns, hear the word; but the worries of this life, the deceitfulness of wealth and the desires for other things come in and choke the word, making it unfruitful. Others, like seed sown on good soil, hear the word, accept it, and produce a crop–thirty, sixty or even a hundred times what was sown.”
In the latter passage, we get our three action steps. Hear the Word. Accept it. Produce a crop. To hear the Word, we have to be in the Word. I know how hard it is to find time. One of the ladies in my Bible study shared last week that she had decided to start getting up early so that she could have time in the Word before her kids woke up. And it worked well–for two days–until her kids started waking up early too. Isn’t that the truth for all of us? We make good plans, and we even carry out the plan, but something unexpected pops up and throws everything off. Our time in the Word might be broken up by cries of, “I want milk, Momma!” or “What’s for breakfast?” but that’s okay. Every second we spend in God’s Word feeds our hearts and souls. We might not be able to get an Instagram worthy latte and a quiet slice of time, but that’s okay. For this season, we will take what we can get and trust that God can still speak to us even in our cobbled together minutes in His Word.
Accept it. And this is where it gets a little prickly. I don’t know about you, but I am excellent at rationalizing, and I tend to get a bit defensive when I feel like my toes are being squished. God’s Word at times comforts us and at other times pierces us. Both are necessary, and both are for our good. My sister is on the trip to Colombia helping with the medical team since she’s in nursing school, and this reminds me of a Band-aid versus antiseptic. One covers a sick area. The other penetrates and kills what’s dead so healing can occur. It might be painful, but we need the latter.
Produce a crop. This is where we get to work, where we get moving. My pastor, Chris Conlee, says all the time that information plus application equals transformation. I can’t just hear it and accept it. I have to put it into action.
The first passage speaks to the different types of soil we represent. Have you ever had a season that it seemed like everything you read spoke directly to you? And another season where it felt like your heart was numb, like you couldn’t hear anything? I’ve experienced both throughout my life. Being in the Word and surrounded by others who are in the Word is crucial, but the type of soil that’s sodding our hearts also matters. Mark shows us three things that affect our soil. In verse 15, we see the seed scattered in the soil along the path. Often this soil is contaminated with runoff and chemicals from the path. Its acidity is out of whack. This happens when we listen to the lies of Satan, when we believe him when he tells us we are unworthy, defeated, destined for failure, and a lost cause. He knows exactly which lie we’ll believe, and he is ruthless in his attack with it. Our weapon, our sword, is the truth of God’s Word.
In verse 16, we see the seed sown on rocky places where the seed takes root but quickly dies. This seed starts out strong in the rocky soil, but it rides the waves of passing emotions instead of anchoring itself to the unchanging truth of God’s promises. We women can be particularly moody, the one writing these words is queen of that list. I’m a very emotional person, going from one side of the roller coaster to the other faster than most people can blink. This is why my prayer journal has become so important to me. In that journal, I don’t just have my thoughts and feelings; I have the truth, the unchanging truth, of God’s Word written out all over the pages. My thoughts and feelings are all over the place many days (especially when pregnant–yowza!) but His Word grounds me and brings me back to steady. It reminds me that my circumstances are temporary, but His faithfulness is everlasting.
Finally, in verse 19 we see the soil that’s full of thorns and the seed choked out by all the things we worry about. Mark and Luke both specifically point out money stuff. Ouch. No matter what our income, it seems we all worry about money related stuff from time to time. Just a couple weeks ago, I renamed the spreadsheet where we keep up with our budget, “Jehovah Jireh.” I realized I was feeling a little anxious every week when it came time to reconcile the budget, and I just needed the reminder that He is the One who provides. He is the One our money is for. He is the reason we make the decisions we do regarding finances. It was a small change, but it’s been the reminder I needed every Friday morning to put things in perspective. The more we try to control everything ourselves the more the thorns squeeze and tighten their grip on our heart until one day we find ourselves believing more in our paycheck than our Jehovah Jireh, more in a salary amount than the One who made everything from nothing.
It matters what our soil is like, and it matters that we are sowing seed. A farmer doesn’t get to choose one or the other. It’s a both/and situation. The farmer has to cultivate the soil carefully and be diligent about putting down seed. We have to nurture our hearts by fighting the enemy’s lies with the truth of Scripture, by allowing His Word to pierce and cleanse, and by putting His Word into action. And we must have seed. The seed might come in little bursts between diaper changes and cleaning up toddler spills or it might come to the distant tune of that purple dinosaur keeping our kids quiet for a few minutes, but let’s not settle for anything less than God’s Word pouring down on our hearts. Let’s take it however and whenever we can get it. Let’s get up early and stay up late. Let’s get creative with distracting our wee ones. But let’s get it.