When I lived in Illinois, one of my favorite winter activities was attempting to slide across long patches of ice on the sidewalk. The challenge was, of course, to make it all the way to the end of the patch still standing, without slipping and landing on your rear-end or cracking your head open.
I’m happy to say that I never did the latter, but a few failed attempted definitely ended with a bruised bottom. Yet I succeeded many times and made it all the way to the end of patch. And it felt great.
The difference between success and failure was simple; when I succeeded, it was because I was all in. I didn’t think about falling. I didn’t get scared. I didn’t worry that I wouldn’t make it.
I just went for it.
Yet when I worried about falling, when I thought, “Oh, dear, this might not turn out so well,” it was like a self-fulfilling prophecy. My double-mindedness would almost always lead to falling down.
Sometimes, I would attempt the ice-skid once more after completing it successfully, and these anxious thoughts would still creep into my mind. That was always when I felt the most crazy: “I just did this a second ago,” I would think. “Why is this so hard right now?”
Looking back, it’s hard to make sense of why I was sometimes scared and why I was sometimes confident. In the end, it just seemed that some days were better than others. Things changed from day to day.
I changed from day to day.
We may be tempted to think that things ought to be the same, or at least that they ought to maintain their general direction. But our lives are dynamic, and so are we.
This Sunday, the Lord tells the Parable of the Sower and the Seed. In it, a man throws seed on the ground and the seed responds in various ways based on what kind of soil receives it. Interpreting the parable for his disciples, the Lord says:
The seed is the word of God. The ones along the path are those who have heard; then the devil comes and takes away the word from their hearts, that they may not believe and be saved. And the ones on the rock are those who, when they hear the word, receive it with joy; but these have no root, they believe for a while and in time of temptation fall away. And as for what fell among the thorns, they are those who hear, but as they go on their way they are choked by the cares and riches and pleasures of life, and their fruit does not mature. And as for that in the good soil, they are those who, hearing the word, hold it fast in an honest and good heart, and bring forth fruit with patience. (Lk. 8:11-15)
If we aren’t careful, it might be very easy to read this interpretation and assume that we are one kind of a soil or another. We may even be tempted to think that we are generally doing a pretty good (or pretty bad) job of being soil that receives God’s word, as if the state of our soil has already been determined.
But maybe our receptivity to God’s word is just as dynamic as the rest of our lives. Maybe we aren’t just one kind of soil, but instead we are each of the different soils from one day to the next.
Life happens in seasons. It is full of ups and downs, ascents and falls, hills and valleys. Sometimes I need to be reminded of this in my relationship with the Lord.
Some days I wake up and I can’t wait to greet the Lord and commend my day to him. Other days, I’m so overwhelmed with things I need to do that I can barely breathe, and God doesn’t even cross my mind. Other days, the first thought on my mind is, “Breakfast.”
My heart changes from day to day. That’s all part of life. We wake up to discover that the soil of our garden is different today than it was yesterday, even though we aren’t doing anything differently.
Some days it’s just easier to receive the Lord’s word. But that doesn’t mean we can just sit back and wallow in the fact that today our soil has more thorns than it did yesterday.
In our life, we are called to till the ground of our hearts at all times, every day. If today happens to be a difficult day, we’ll need more than a pep talk and positive thinking, more than just psyching ourselves up and saying, “Okay, time to focus on the Lord! I just did this! Why is this so hard right now?”
What we need is real work; the ascetic work of the life in Christ.
The task of tilling the ground is going to be different everyday. And everyday, we need to honestly confront the soil in our hearts and cultivate it.
It’s not easy.
If our hearts are full of thorns, for instance, the only thing we can do is deal with them rather than ignore them.
And that means, sometimes, we’re going to get pricked.
Of course, this responsibility doesn’t mean that we are totally on our own when it comes to tilling the garden of our hearts. We have spiritual fathers, we have the Church, and most importantly, we have the Lord.
We must present ourselves to the Lord daily, offering whatever soil we have, asking for His wisdom and help to till the garden of our hearts as we hope to receive His word (and His Word) with gladness.
Roll up your sleeves; there’s work to be done.
Winter: marla_rochester via Compfight cc
Weeds: elixir b via Compfight cc
Christian is a Young Adult Ministries Coordinator for Y2AM. He is a husband, father, mover, shaker, coffee drinker, sandal wearer, and CrossFitter. Christian has his MA from Azusa Pacific University in Marriage and Family Therapy and is working toward a second MA in Children, Youth, and Family Ministry from Luther Seminary. Christian and his family live in Phoenix, Arizona.
For more on cultivating a life of prayer with Christ, check out this episode of Be the Bee:
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