Life has been crazy! There is just no other way to say it, and yet it feels so understated and overstated all at the same time. The raccoon has had ear infection after ear infection. Last week, I attended a worship conference and was out-of-pocket at home. Our weekends have been packed with all kinds of stuff and so the school week has been more recovery time than school time. I have to remind myself that’s one of the reasons we are in Family Rehab–to recover.
A few weeks ago, Paul and the kids planted some grass seed in the backyard. We have been in this house for a year, and finally, we got around to planting some seeds in the dirt wasteland of our sad backyard. As luck (or God) would have it, the next day after sowing the seed, it rained. It rained twelve inches. The backyard was a swamp and those seeds were now floating and riding the flash flood waters. As the water receded over the next couple of days and the sun eventually dried things out, we were amazed to see where new bright green grass was growing–in the front yard, next to the street curb and even across the street! I began to wonder if the water could have defied gravity by flowing uphill in some areas. It was amazing. Cullen Country can thank the Goeke’s for supplying the block with some new grass.
Now, in the backyard, there was only a little grass growing under the hammock. There was still a lot of dirt after our seeds had been displaced by the storms. So, Paul went back to the store and sent the kids back out to sow. The bluish-green seed sprayed against the muddy dirt did not look very promising to me. And would you know it? The next day, it rained again.
Today, as I look outside the window into the backyard, I actually see more bright green grass than dusty dry earth. The second rain was just enough to soak the seed and nourish it, rather than send it to the neighbors. Thank goodness. When that second round of rain hit, we were sure we had wasted more money on seed.
All of this has reminded me of the parable of the sower. So I went to the book of Matthew and read it again for a quick refresher, and this time, there were a few things that stuck out to me. When Jesus tells this parable, He is sitting in a boat close to the shore. This is interesting to me to think about the scenery as He was talking. It sounds similar to the scenery of my water-logged backyard–water everywhere, no grass, just sand and dirt. Why in this seascape setting, does Jesus talk about sowing seeds? He told many parables throughout the 3 years of His ministry and on many occasions His “lessons” were hands-on, or used the setting or situation He and His disciples were in. It’s at least interesting as I read the story now, in light of our floating seed that He told His parable in the abundance of water. (Hold on to that thought.)
He goes on to tell how the sower scattered the seed on different types of soil–the path, rocky ground, thorns, and good soil. The seeds didn’t thrive due to birds and the plants didn’t survive due to shallow soil, the scorching sun, or the choking weeds. Nowhere does Jesus mention torrential downpour. So, I start to think that there is no lesson to be learned from our deep-shade-grass-seed and our abundance of water.
Then it hit me–abundance of water. The issue with our seed, was not a disparaging soil situation. The issue with our seed was an abundance of water. We have good soil in the backyard, and apparently in the front yard, across the street, and up the mounds of construction dirt nearby. The seed was having no issue taking root, being eaten by woodland creatures, or being overrun by thorny bushes. The seed was thriving–just in the wrong place! Or, should I say, in the wrong place according to me.
God’s divine plan goes outside the fenced boundaries of my backyard goals and desires. He has given me seed to plant–the story of His love. He wants me to sow without discretion–to spill over with blue-green Gospel. He doesn’t want me to worry about how much money has been spent on seed, because His supply is endless. If I am faithful with the seed He provides, He does the work of sending it where it should go. On the floodwaters of His Holy Spirit, He carries anything that I have to offer, to the places and people He wants it to go. There is a lot of good soil out there. There are a lot of people with hearts that ache and yearn to be unconditionally loved. The question for me, the lesson for me, is am I willing to let God take His Gospel where He wills it?
The seed we planted was genetically altered and manufactured to grow in deeply shaded areas like our backyard. It was designed to grow where the sunshine is weak and light is scarce. But, God moved that seed into the bright areas of the street, where there is virtually no shade, no cover. I like to think that God has created me with specific talents and gifts–that I am created to sow seeds of His love in certain areas, using certain strengths and giftings that He has given me. But, what if He wants to carry me somewhere else–somewhere I feel I am not made to grow–to thrive? What if He wants to carry me across personal boundaries into areas that don’t provide cover from things that could potentially scorch me? What if He wants me to be uncomfortable and away from my hammock of preference?
I am, after all, His little seed in a wide scattering of His people. I am, after all, created not just with a genetic disposition towards certain styles of growth or purpose. I am created with the overarching purpose to serve Him, to glorify Him, to sow seeds of the Gospel for Him. I am created foremost, above all else, to love Him and seek Him. We love because He first loved us. And so, I love Him and the people around me, in response to all He has done for me. I freely give Him my life, my devotion, my control. I say “freely” not because it’s easy to do so, but because I don’t “owe” Him anything. He gave His life for me not so that I would be indebted to Him to do what He wills. He gave His life for me freely, and so I give all that I have to Him freely.
Even though it is hard to put aside my own plans for a lush backyard oasis, with a hammock, some shade, and the occasional margarita, I can trust that what He has for me, where He moves me with His Holy Spirit, comes from the same love that provided me with all that I currently have. If He loves me enough to give up His heavenly oasis, to come to a dirt-filled wasteland, on my behalf, He loves me enough. He gave up a heavenly throne, to be a king that was mocked and spit upon. He gave up His righteousness, to die for my sinfulness. He gave up so much of His divine giftings and talents for me. All so I could have access to an abounding source of grace–a sower’s seed bag overflowing with grace. There is so much that it can be spread over and over again, after sin-filled flood after flood, and take root in my heart time and time again. His grace is unending. His love unfailing. His mercy everlasting. If He wills through the waters of His Holy Spirit to push me up mounds of dirt, defying the laws of physics–my self-written laws and limitations of my personal capabilities–then I can remember that His grace is sufficient. His provision to give me deep fertile soil will not go away.
Back to an abundance of water…(still holding that thought?) He does not leave me. In the same way that there was an abundance of water as He told the parable from that boat, and in the same way, that there was an abundance of rain on our drought-forsaken land, He pours an abundance of the Holy Spirit onto every situation. He doesn’t command me to scatter seed and then turns His face from me. He provides the guidance of the Holy Spirit. It might be rocking my boat at times. It might be carrying my plans down the street and out of my control. But He doesn’t leave me. His Spirit is not just an all-consuming force that changes my plans. His Spirit allows new things to grow and thrive. His Spirit provides direction for new paths and plans, that I would have never imagined on my own.
As Jesus was telling the crowds the parable of the sower, He sat in a boat that was floating on abundance. Most likely, as the people listened to Him talking about seeds and thorns and dirt, they weren’t thinking about the need for water to make a seed grow. But, we all know water is necessary in the process of seed germination. Most likely, the people were not looking at Jesus on the water, and seeing the abundance that sat before them–the never-ending supply of salvation and restoration found in Jesus. He was watering them with the “secrets of heaven”. When the disciples asked Jesus why He spoke in parables, this was His answer:
“To you it has been given to know the secrets of the kingdom of heaven, but to them it has not been given. For to the one who has, more will be given, and he will have an abundance, but from the one who has not, even what he has will be taken away. This is why I speak to them in parables, because seeing they do not see, and hearing they do not hear, nor do they understand. ”
Not everyone in the crowd understood that Jesus indeed was their Savior. Not everyone who saw Him in the boat that day, understood that right there, in front of them, was grace overflowing. I don’t always see the water over the plans of my heart as grace abundant and provision of the Holy Spirit. I don’t always get it. I don’t always understand what Jesus is explaining and how He is moving. But, occasionally, I do see that His overwhelming flood waters that stir up my backyard plans, are providing growth opportunities in unexpected areas. I see the movement in His kingdom and the power of His love being revealed to people who don’t ever step foot into my backyard. He doesn’t long for any of us to stay in the dark. He wants us all to know Him and to receive the abundance that He has for us. We all need Him. We all need his unconditional love. Whether we admit it or not, we all desire to understand it–to get it.
“Blessed are your eyes for they see, and your ears, for they hear. Truly, I say to you, many prophets and righteous people longed to see what you see, and did not see it, and to hear what you hear, and did not hear it. Hear then the parable of the sower: When anyone hears the word of the kingdom and does not understand it, the evil one comes and snatches away what has been sown in his heart. This is what was sown along the path. As for what was sown on rocky ground, this is the one who hears the word and immediately receives it with joy, yet he has no root in himself, but endures for a while, and when tribulation or persecution arises on account of the word, immediately he falls away. As for what was sown among thorns, this is the one who hears the word, but the cares of the world and the deceitfulness of riches choke the word, and it proves unfruitful. As for what was sown on good soil, this is the one who hears the word and understands it. He indeed bears fruit and yields, in one case a hundredfold, in another sixty, and in another thirty.”
My prayer is that the seed of grace is firmly rooted in my heart, and in the hearts of those around me. I pray that I don’t miss the abundance of grace that is flooding my world, no matter how far it scatters my plans. I pray that I allow for the Holy Spirit to guide where the seeds I have been gifted with are planted, and that I willingly let them go where He wills. I pray that I trust His provision and sufficiency, that no matter where I fall, He has the power to bear fruit in and through me. I pray for those who are stuck on a path where the Truth is stolen from them. I pray for those who are living with shallow roots and falling away because things are getting hard. I pray for those who are living among the thorns of worldly success and striving for financial gain, because those things choke out the only thing that can really satisfy. I pray that God sends His flood waters to move all the deeply shaded seed to good soil–that He nurture and feed and cause new life to grow in all of us.