You know, Jesus was pretty savvy with his parables, but we too often take them at face value or dismiss them as cute little stories. And unfortunately, sometimes scripture decides to explain the parables for us, so we don’t think too deeply about it. Take the parable of the good soil, for example (Luke 8:4-15), it is an amazing metaphor explaining the state of our souls and what it takes to respond to the Divine in our lives and to grow spiritually.
Side note: Jesus seminar scholars believe that, while the actual parable was probably authentic to Jesus, the explanation most likely was not because “Such a distinction between “us” and “them” contravenes much of Jesus’ fundamental teaching.”(The Five Gospels, by Funk, Hoover and the Jesus Seminar, p. 307)
This familiar parable goes something like this… A sower went out to sow some seed, and as he sowed some of the seeds fell on the footpath, some in the rocks, some in the thorns and some in the good soil.
Clearly, the sower is God. The seed can be interpreted as many things such as the word of God, the nudgings of the Divine, our potential, and the love of God.
The seeds lands in four different places which represent the soil, or receptivity, of our souls to the Divine. Depending on our life circumstances, the people we associate, what we’ve experienced and whether we are part of a nurturing spiritual community, our soil may be many different compositions of the four types.
(For the full audio version, click here.)
FOOTPATH – If our soul resembles a footpath we imagine hard-packed, well-traveled ground. If the seeds of our potential, or the nudgings of the Divine, or the pull toward spiritual growth, all fall on the hardened surface of our souls, what does that mean? Maybe we’re too stuck in our ways, or too likely to listen to what others have always told us to be open to something new. Maybe we prefer to follow the path more traveled because it is the path of least resistance, we don’t want to question or risk trying a different way. Perhaps we’re creatures of habit, unwilling to divert from our usual path… just like we take the same route to the grocery store ever time.
ROCKS – If our souls resemble rocky ground the seed of God will have a difficult time taking root. And if it does, the roots are liable to be shallow and the plants will be at the mercy of the elements. Tough times come along and those fragile plants wither in the sun, are washed away in big rains or are uprooted easily in the wind. Rocks that keep us from having depth, substance and self-awareness may be things like bitterness, anger, hurt, shame, guilt, selfishness, ego, fear, or even very little desire for personal growth.
THORNS – The nudgings of the Divine can grow up in the thorns of our souls, but will most likely be choked out before they get too big. There is no room for them to grow, nor is it a priority to help them grow. Thorns may be the multitude of worries and concerns we have. We would prefer to let our minds dwell on these things than on things of the spirit. Thorns may look like excessive business… we claim we have no time for the Divine (except maybe for Sunday mornings). Thorns may be the ego wanting its own way, its own agenda or may be co-dependence on others and unhealthy attachments to things, ideas, needs.
GOOD SOIL – If you are a serious gardener, you know that to grow healthy plants you need to prepare good soil to put them in. Typically this means tilling the soil, adding nutrients and fertilizers, rotating crops, having the right pH balance and the right mixture of sand clay, silt and organic material for what you’re planting. It’s a lot of work to make good soil! Metaphorically, I believe this means first and foremost that our spiritual growth is a priority in our lives. We need to cultivate within ourselves the ability to be open-minded, flexible, and curious. We need to truly listen to and process the wisdom those in our lives we consider our spiritual mentors. A variety of spiritual practices may be important, plus new ideas, new experiences and new places to expand our minds and our understandings of life. And we need to attend to the rocks and thorns in our lives!
Think about it: How would you describe the ‘soil’ of your heart and soul at this time in your life?
I think, by and large, we expect the seeds of God to grow in whatever soil we give to God without any thought of preparing our souls to be receptive. Our society and our culture moves so fast these days that we haven’t cultivated what it takes to plant outside gardens and care for them, much less worry about how fertile the ground of our own beings are. It is a commitment, yes. But to reap the benefits – a harvest of peace, joy, perseverance, patience, kindness, generosity – we have to give the seeds a good place to grow.
Love & Light!