Okay, you have probably heard this parable once or twice. If not, this may not do it justice, but it may give us some "seed thoughts" upon which we can allow God's Spirit to develop over time. A farmer planted. One thing is for sure - seed purposefully planted is a wondrous thing. Your gardens and fields can be filled with all kinds of manner of growing things - because of purposeful planting. Just as amazing to me is the seeming strength of the stuff which is NOT purposefully planted in our gardens or fields! How is it they manage to get there in the first place, or find root?
A farmer planted seed. As he scattered the seed, some of it fell on the road, and birds ate it. Some fell in the gravel; it sprouted quickly but didn't put down roots, so when the sun came up it withered just as quickly. Some fell in the weeds; as it came up, it was strangled by the weeds. Some fell on good earth, and produced a harvest beyond his wildest dreams. (Matthew 13:3-8 The Message)
I know Jesus was teaching some specific principles from this parable, but will you indulge me a little to bring a little bit of a twist on it? First of all, I'd like to explore this idea of a "farmer planting seed". The idea of planting suggests a whole lot of preparation PRIOR to planting. Someone has gone to a whole lot of work to prepare the soil to RECEIVE the seed. Now, don't get me wrong, I find this task daunting. Most of the enjoyment I get out of my garden is only realized when I invest the time! If I want to see bigger blossoms on the hibiscus, I need to turn the soil once in a while and add in the much needed nutrients so missing in this Arizona soil. When I do, I enjoy a season of blossoms. If I don't...it is green, but without evidence of what it is capable of producing.
The same is true of us. Soil prepared yields much more - the purpose for which we were planted begins to become evident in our lives. We begin to fulfill the purpose for which we were created. In time, we get exactly what we were willing to invest!
Soil is not the only thing pictured here - there is the idea of purposeful planting. Now, don't get me wrong - fields of wildflowers are indeed beautiful, but most of the "beauty" is really weed! Over the course of a short period of time, four trees took root in a very rocky patch in my side yard. At first, I thought I'd let them grow because it was the west side of the house and any shade in this Arizona sun is greatly coveted. They grew quickly - without any attention from me. They needed no watering system - they seemed to find their own. There was no need to fertilize - they were green and hearty all without my constant doting.
Now, in a course of a couple of years, these were over thirty feet tall and with branch expanses 10 feet in length. They blossomed in the Spring with bright yellow blossoms, were green all year round, and provided much needed shade to this western exposure. What more could I possibly want?
Well, for one, nothing of life was produced "from" the tree. In fact, even the birds could not take nest in their expanses because they did not provide enough shelter to even allow the sparrows a home. They were strong trees - but their strength provided no shelter. In fact, other than a few ant piles underneath, nothing seemed to enjoy their growth - in the end, neither did I!
The branches began to expand out over the roof of the house, rubbing constantly on the edges of the eaves and shingles. The edges of my shingles looked more like jagged shark's teeth than perfectly squared off edges! I was constantly having to scale the steep slant of the rooftop to sidle out to the point I could lop the off and free the shingles from their prickly attacks.
The kids could not climb them - they were full of sharp, pain-invoking spikes. Prick yourself with one of them and you'd hurt for days - even so much as to set up small pockets of infection inside the wound. They dropped tons of leaves resembling pine needles. The lizards enjoyed hiding in the mounds they created, but the yard was constantly a mess.
Now, let me just say this - these trees grew from seed. The seed was indeed NOT planted on purpose. What promised growth looked pretty interesting at first. In the course of time, that which was "opportunistic" in its planting also became a torturing thing in my life! The trees were no longer promising in their growth - they were a burden!
The same is true when we allow seeds to be planted in our lives which are of the "opportunistic" type. We may think all "seed" has potential, but if we never check it out in the "user-manual" to see what will actually be produced by the "seed", we may be surprised at how much the thing which grows produces nothing more than pricking thorns!
In time, I had my brother and his son spend a couple of days with a chain saw cutting those trees down to the quick. Over the next couple of years, I had to constantly cut down the growth which wanted to re-emerge from the remaining stumps. Finally, it took a couple hours of burning the stumps to cease the growth! You read it right - fire! I had to ignite the stumps with lighter fluid and watch them burn ever so close to the house - vigilant to ensure they did no further damage.
Even the wood they cut from the tree was not worthy to be called firewood. Why? It was covered in so many of these thorns, anyone grabbing them to put into the fireplace would be speared! So, it was hauled away to the dump. There, it could do as it pleased! If it wanted to spring up in the midst of the garbage - I really did not care - just as long as it was not in my yard any longer!
My focus this morning is to share the importance of not only prepared soil, but in the purposeful planting of the seed. Seed which is purposefully planted has specific purpose - there is something we desire, potential we don't realize possible, and enjoyment we could not imagine otherwise. Opportunistic seed comes our way quite frequently - born on the winds of storms, carried by the birds. The thing about opportunistic seed - it needs very little tending to take root. It grows almost unattended. Purposeful seed needs much tending. But...opportunistic seed almost always produces something which is nothing more than a burden to you in the end! Just sayin...