So I've been trying to put some semblance of order back into my life lately (it's gotten a bit discombobulated). Most mornings I've been picking out a few of the Daily Office passages and taking some time to rest and relax before embarking on the business of the day. As a result, you might actually get a few more calm, devotional-type posts here once in a while.
Last week sometime I was reading Jesus' parable of the sower and the seeds. The narrative is of a sower, scattering seed; it falls among rocks, thorns, packed ground, and actual good, tilled soil. When you get towards the end, Jesus explains what it means to those who really want to know.
For most of my life I've been shaped by the evangelical church in the US. It tends to emphasize spiritual success. Make converts, sin less, be good, do better. This particular parable is usually a cautionary tale in the way I've been formed. Most of the seed ends up wasted. Birds come and get it, it withers from weak roots, the weeds choke it out. Don't be like that bad soil. Be the good soil. Grow. Make more Christians. Be fruitful. Produce!
It's sort of depressing, honestly.
Anyway, I sort of had a realization last week. God doesn't waste seed. There may be some theological streams that tell you some people are destined to fail - that God throws seed their direction, but knows nothing will come of it. I just don't believe that. God doesn't waste seed.
I mean, it's not like soil gets to choose where it sits. There's nothing dirt can do to make itself more amenable to growing things. It's just dirt. (Any good Biblical scholars among you will be recognizing the connection here about now, if you have not already. If you still have not - look here - that is all the help you get.)
I'm going to out on a limb here and say most of the people I know, most of the Christians I know, if they're really honest and look at their lives, it's tough to claim they're producing a hundred, sixty, or thirty times what was sown. That's miraculous numbers. If I'm gardening, I would be ecstatic if my crop produced double. That would be a dream come true. As far as biology goes, I think most seeds generally produce what was sown. If you're lucky you get one plant from one seed. Very rarely do you see a hundred plants growing from one seed. I'm not even sure where there would be room for all of them.
Regardless, I'm not that soil. The one that gets the good seed. That's not me. I have a sneaking suspicion it's not you either. The seeds on the rocky soil, the path, and among the weeds, the wasted seed - that's me. That's my kind of soil.
I'm the seed that gets stolen away. The seed so distracted by my own junk, I fail to see hurting people around me. My seed is careless and thoughtless and obtuse a lot of the time. I fold under persecution and I give up when things get too tough. My seed is filled often times with doubt that any seed, any soil is really good deep down. Sometimes I'm not sure anything will ever grow anywhere at all. My seed is envious of everything that looks better, smarter, easier, more successful than me.
I live my life among the wasted seed.
But God doesn't waste seed. If it's falling in my direction, it's doing so for a purpose. I feel a bit daft for seeing this parable as bad news. The only people for whom Jesus has bad news are the ones who are already convinced they're the good soil. The bad soil is still getting seed - and getting a lot of it. The sower keeps sowing where there's little chance of growth.
If there's one thing I know about the Kingdom of God, it's that things in the Kingdom don't quite work the way they seem to work in the rest of the world. That term itself is loaded, but essentially the Kingdom of God refers to those places where things work as God desires them to work, where justice is done, peace reigns, and people are loved and respected not for what they do, but just because they're people. The Kingdom of God is a place where love wins.
In this rambling parable of an analogy, the seed is the Kingdom. We may not always see it breaking through all the time - it only hits the good soil once in a while - but it keeps coming. And instead of the bad soil corrupting the seed, keeping it from becoming all it can be, well the Kingdom seed works the other way around. The seed makes the soil better.
Yes, there are times when I fail, when I forget and reject and refuse to follow the Kingdom way of love. There are times when the world beats me down. Or my lack of discipline holds me back. Or the demons in my life rear their ugly heads. But those seeds I waste, they're not the only seeds I'm going to get. The love keeps coming. The Kingdom continues to break through. And, believe it or not, those seeds are changing me. Very likely - no, absolutely, the Kingdom is coming in me in ways I just can't see. I suspect it will continue to do so, so long as I still care enough to worry about it.
You see, God doesn't waste seed. There's nothing the soil can do to make itself better. It's just dirt. It's the sower who comes along and works the ground and spreads the seed. It is love that makes something beautiful out of our lives.