The Soil of My Heart…
Almost as far back as I remember, I have been a sower of seeds. I loved the story of Johnny Appleseed as he went from community to community, planting seeds in rich soil, that others might one day enjoy a plentiful harvest. The first seeds I can remember planting were in a little paper Dixie cup. They were pinto beans, those little dotted gem-like seeds that had the potential of producing so much more with good soil, water, and sunlight. Oh, the lessons I would learn from those pinto beans, the opportunity to sow them in the soil of my heart.
I think it was a preschool project that prompted that first planting. I filled my cup with dirt, and with my little fingers pressed the seeds under ever so slightly, just enough to cover. My dear mother placed the receptacle in the kitchen windowsill and told me that with a little water and a little sunlight, the seeds would grow. I was fascinated with the entire prospect. I can see it in the recesses of my mind even now. How I anxiously looked at that cup, and even though the plant did not sprout immediately, and my mother had to remind me not to water it too much, patience paid off, and eventually a little green flap of life peaked its way out of the dark soil.
It was amazing! It was all I could do to resist dissecting it to see exactly how everything worked, but resist I did, and imagined the giant bean sprout that would arise from that little Dixie cup. I could not help but think of Jack and his magic beans, his family he would save from the menacing giant. That could be me, always thinking heroically.
Eventually, Mom gave me a little patch of ground off the concrete patio (where we used to set up a Doughboy swimming pool in the summers) beneath some green ivy and next to the picket fence where we transplanted my little seedlings to watch them grow, and grow they did. They first spread out, and then they climbed. The little plants only took up a few inches of soil on the ground, but they climbed up the ivy, and then the fence as if they owned it. Mom told me that if I grew enough beans I could dry them and then we could eat them. Mom made the very best chili beans.
Those bean stocks never grew all the way up to the clouds, as I had fantasized, but they did grow to the top of the ivy and fence and produced a nice little harvest a few months later. It was such a wonderful experience. I do not believe that we ate any of that first harvest, but my mother did give me a small jar, and after plucking each bean out of its pod, I dried and stored them for the coming year.
The next year, my mother rewarded my efforts by giving me several feet of dirt in the same location between the concrete and the fence. We took out the ivy, and the spot became my own personal bean patch. I planted all of my beans from the year before, and again they sprouted, climbed, and grew to a plentiful harvest.
I began to notice a difference in how some of the beans grew. The soil right next to the concrete was more contaminated with rocks, sand, and other debris, drier, and had less worms in it. The beans did not grow well there. Those that did grow were weak, with pale green leaves, and more often scorched from the reflection of the sun off the concrete. It was rather inhospitable.
Although the beans did better a few inches back from the concrete, so did the weeds. Once the weeds got going, especially the Bermuda grass, it was really hard to keep my bean plants properly watered and nourished. No matter how much I would try, I just could not seem to keep those weeds under control. I would pluck and I would pull, but the tugging was never enough and sometimes I would damage the roots of my plants. It was best to make sure the weeds never had a chance to mingle in with my beans.
Closer to the redwood picket fence, where the soil was black and rich with worms, the beans took off, their leaves a lush dark green color. They grew thick and tall providing shade over the soil below. Most weeds do not like shade. By the time of harvest, these bean plants had thrived and produced a crop, not only plenteous for us to enjoy at the table, but also to provide seed for the coming year.
This time I carefully selected the largest and prettiest beans to save for next year’s crop, and gave the rest to Mom for cooking with her chili. She told me that if I plant the very best, I will receive an even better crop in the year to come, and I did.
That routine was repeated for several years, until distractions of life took me away from that wondrous time of planting little seeds in Dixie cups, and raising them to bountiful crops. I will ever be grateful for that first little seedling, the lessons I learned from my mother, and just watching things grow and become fruitful.
A favorite lesson taught by Jesus has come to be known as the Parable of the Sower. “Behold, a sower went forth to sow; And when he sowed, some seeds fell by the way side, and the fowls came and devoured them up: Some fell upon stony places, where they had not much earth: and forthwith they sprung up, because they had no deepness of earth: And when the sun was up, they were scorched; and because they had no root, they withered away. And some fell among thorns; and the thorns sprung up, and choked them: But other fell into good ground, and brought forth fruit, some an hundredfold, some sixtyfold, some thirtyfold” (Matthew 13:3-8).
To His disciples Jesus later explains, “Now the parable is this:
The seed is the word of God.
Those by the way side are they that hear; then cometh the devil, and taketh away the word out of their hearts, lest they should believe and be saved.
They on the rock are they, which, when they hear, receive the word with joy; and these have no root, which for a while believe, and in time of temptation fall away.
And that which fell among thorns are they, which, when they have heard, go forth, and are choked with cares and riches and pleasures of this life, and bring no fruit to perfection.
But that on the good ground are they, which in an honest and good heart, having heard the word, keep it, and bring forth fruit with patience” (Luke 8:11-15).
The good ground is who we need to strive to be. We are the good ground. We receive the seed. We listen to the word and seek to understand it. The question is, “Do we always nourish it sufficiently that it bears good fruit as plentifully as it could?” Most of us do not nourish those seeds that we receive as well as we should, or even could, but we are not alone. This is why we have the atonement of Christ, to make up the difference of what we should have done and did not.
Nevertheless, we need to nourish those seeds to create an ever-cycling and rich soil that will always be inviting of truth. Otherwise, our soil becomes dry and bereft of nutrients, and eventually the word will become unrecognizable to us and nothing will grow.
As the Lord said, “He that received seed into the good ground is he that heareth the word, and understandeth it; which also beareth fruit, and bringeth forth, some an hundredfold, some sixty, some thirty” (Matthew 13:23).
Oh, those little pinto bean seedlings, how in the good soil of righteous desire they grew and brought forth fruit even a thousandfold. Let us nourish these seeds we receive, for the seedlings of today become plants of tomorrow, and the plants of tomorrow become the nutrients of all future seeds. This fundamental change in the soil of our hearts will bring invitation to all truth, not only for our lives, but for the countless generations that we will affect by our parental and ministerial teachings and deeds, which are the same. This is my witness. “He that hath ears to hear, let him hear” (Luke 8:8). In the name of Jesus Christ, amen.