In all honesty, I’m not trying to write a post after every gathering with Emmaus Life. It just turns out that way. Of course, it’s helped by the fact that I’ve been working Monday through Saturday for the past five weeks, which leaves Sundays off and allows me time to debrief, reflect, and recharge for the next week. And, as God has often told me, my new pastor is better than yours… (just kidding).
Today’s message came from Matthew 13 wherein Jesus tells the parable of the sower and the seed. This guy goes out to sow some seed and some fell on the path, some on rocky ground, and some fell among thorn bushes. None of these types of ground was able to produce much grain at all because of annoying birds (probably crows – let’s be honest), shallow soil, or other bushes choking out the seeds. Even so, some seed fell on good soil and produced a lot of grain.
“He who has ears, let him hear,” Jesus says. Scott said that Jesus really means “Those who are spiritually minded are going to get this.” And of course Jesus’ own disciples are clueless as to the parable’s meaning, but that’s another topic. What Scott then questioned the group with was, “What kind of soil do you want to be?”
At this point he told a story of his own tilling adventures. At their last place in Dallas (Oregon), they had started to garden. So Scott went out and starting tilling some of the yard so they could get to planting. It didn’t take him long to start digging up garbage – actual trash – from the previous owners of the home.
Several different things came to mind at hearing this story. For one, as Scott talked about, God digs up some of our garbage and leaves us with the decision either to deal with it or bury it again and move on. Dealing with it is often uncomfortable and embarrassing, but burying it up again is even worse. At some point, as Scott told us, you stop digging. And, like in gardening or farming, if you stop digging, you stop growing.
Something else that came to mind, though, during a discussion with some visitors to Eugene was Luke 6:46-49. In this passage, Jesus tells a parable of foundations:
“Why do you call me ‘Lord, Lord,’ and not do what I tell you? Everyone who comes to me and hears my words and does them, I will show you what he is like: he is like a man building a house, who dug deep and laid the foundation on the rock. And when a flood arose, the stream broke against that house and could not shake it, because it had been well built. But the one who hears and does not do them is like a man who built a house on the ground without a foundation. When the stream broke against it, immediately it fell, and the ruin of that house was great.”
Several years ago, I had written a Facebook note (early stages of blogging for me) about this passage and how in order to dig deep to set a solid foundation, a lot of dirt has to come up. And with it, maybe even a lot of garbage – a lot of things that we either aren’t proud of or shouldn’t be proud of.
As we got to talking in our little group of three, I had admitted that there are many, many times wherein I acknowledge the garbage God has dug up, but I leave it there. I say, “Yeah, God, that’s some pretty nasty stuff. But did you see that patch of bright green grass in the front yard? It’s looking pretty good.” Or I say, “God, you can have the back yard, but the basement’s mine. Don’t touch the stuff down there.” All the while I do as much good as if I had buried up the garbage again.
There is quite a bit of courage required to talk about the garbage in our lives. Oftentimes many people don’t want to hear it, as Scott mentioned this morning. “I’ve got enough garbage in my own life,” they might say. With Jesus talking about our hearts as soil, though, He’s saying there is something very important about the things we keep to ourselves – the things we bury again. There is something dangerous, even. Jesus is saying that if we continue to bury garbage or to say that God can have surface level issues (i.e. He can have the back yard), but not the deeper stuff (i.e. the basement), then eventually the soil dies – our hearts die.
What does it take, then, to prevent our soil from dying? Or what does it take to turn dead soil into good soil – the kind that produces an abundance of grain, an abundance of real life? For one thing it starts by listening to Jesus. “He who has ears, let him hear,” He says. For another, it starts by doing what He says.
Dig deep, take out the trash, and hide nothing from Him (not that any of us really can, anyway). And if you’ve got more than you can handle on your own, pray for someone to help. God isn’t going to just dig up your garbage and walk away. He digs it up because He wants it gone.
As I quoted in that Facebook note several years ago, I quote again now:
“Christ says, ‘Give me All. I don’t want so much of your time and so much of your money and so much of your work: I want You. I have not come to torment your natural self, but to kill it. No half-measures are any good. I don’t want to cut off a branch here and a branch there, I want to have the whole tree down. I don’t want to drill the tooth, or crown it, or stop it, but to have it out. Hand over the whole natural self, all the desires which you think innocent as well as the ones you think wicked – the whole outfit. I will give you a new self instead. In face, I will give you Myself: my own will shall become yours.’” – C.S. Lewis, Mere Christianity (Pg. 196)
Give God every bit of you and He’ll give you every bit of Him.