I love gardening. Planting flowers and watching them grow and bloom into the beautiful creation of God they were meant to display brings joy to my heart. However, planting flowers and watching them gradually slump as they gasp for air and nutrients, eventually turning brown and brittle– makes me sad and frustrated.
I’ve gotten pretty good at figuring out the sun/shade factor when it comes to planting; but the soil issue is another level beyond my limited horticultural expertise. My front garden bed has …issues. Clay soil. Hard packed. Tough as nails to weed. Uninviting environment for healthy plant life.
I’ve hemmed and hawed around this clay issue for the 5 years we’ve lived here until recently when my amazing husband transformed our front walkway into a welcoming, cottage-like brick path.
Now the stakes were much higher! This walkway needed to be paired with beautiful, healthy plants gracing the soil it bordered. No garden of shame could live here. The hard soil had to be dealt with.
My expert horticulturist, Beth, recommended amending the soil with coarse builder’s sand and pine bark soil conditioner as a mulch. She also suggested waiting to plant anything in it until the soil had been …well, amended. Healthy. Fertile.
Waiting is hard. I would rather have a quick fix like you see on the fixer-upper shows on HGTV. Can’t we have perfect in one week and celebrate the miraculous transformation as fast as you can say, “Move that bus!”?
But then I received a one-word writing prompt in my inbox –“soil”– and the Holy Spirit took that little prompt and proceeded to use the hard, clay soil issue as a mirror to the issue that was going on in my own soul. Ughhh… don’t you hate–I mean –love it when that happens!
Old wounds resurfaced like a drought-tolerant weed and with them– seeds of resentment, rejection and self-pity began to pack down the soil of my heart. Before I knew it, I was consumed with unhealthy thoughts of hurt and the self-centered, woe-is-me-thinking.
The problem with clay soil is the drainage. When the rain and nutrients are poured in, they don’t soak in. The soil doesn’t receive what it needs to stay soft. It’s too hard-packed, often rejecting the good that is given unless …that gritty sand gets stirred in.
Sometimes it takes the gritty, hard truth to act as a catalyst for change. Hard hearts need to be amended. Wounds tend to pack down hard into the soul. You can pour healthy nutrients over it but they can’t penetrate. Nothing good is produced.
But seeds of bitterness, resentment, and jealousy grow too well in the hard soil. Rehearsing wrongs and disappointments and hurts help push them down a little deeper until they have a stronger hold.
I struggled this morning and wanted to let the weeds grow. I didn’t want to pull them out. I wanted to water them and nurture them.
The Holy Spirit plowed a little deeper into the root of the problem. It turns out, clay is great for sculpting a shape of my own making. God was calling it an idol. I was seeking the approval of others — pleasing others …being liked by others– more than the approval of my Creator God.
“…if pleasing people were my goal, I would not be Christ’s servant.” (Galatians 1:10 NLT)
Back to the soil …
I needed the Word of God to be the sand and tell me the nitty-gritty truth of where this was coming from. The seeds of self-protection, people-pleasing and the need for approval had begun to take root. I needed the Holy Spirit to water my soul and wash the seeds of weeds away. I needed God’s Word to take deeper root and re-condition the soil. I needed to receive the life-giving nutrients of His truth to amend my soul’s soil into soft, fertile ground.
The heart will take on the shape of your thoughts.
My grandma Carrie used to tell me so-and-so had “hardening of the arteries” to describe their decline in health. Unhealthy thoughts, left unattended, can build up like plaque on the walls of the soul — narrowing the passage-way from the flow of love … resulting in a spiritual stroke or heart-attack. Seeds of self-pity, resentment, jealousy, bitterness, anger, and selfish ambition can gradually build up until the life-giving blood flow is blocked. The damage is hard to reverse.
But thanks be to God! He has a way of working the soil of my soul with His love and grace …His mercy and truth.
“For God is working in you, giving you the desire and the power to do what pleases Him.” (Philippians 2:13 NLT)
In Christ, the hardening of the spiritual arteries can be reversed.
“Then I will sprinkle clean water on you, and you will be clean. Your filth will be washed away, and you will no longer worship idols.
And I will give you a new heart, and I will put a new spirit in you. I will take out your stony, stubborn heart and give you a tender, responsive heart.
And I will put my Spirit in you so that you will follow my decrees and be careful to obey my regulations.”
And as I walked it out with Jesus this morning –telling Him all of my …ahem …troubles, He gently spoke to me about the idol that I had built of seeking man’s approval and the need for affirmation from others. He reminded me to keep being about my Father’s business and stay on the path He had marked out for me.
I needed to ask for forgiveness. And the soil of my soul was amended as God took His loving hands and personally tilled up the hard places with His grace and truth. And the Holy Spirit prompted again with a song I needed to hear…
“Amazing grace! How sweet the sound
That saved a wretch like me!
I once was lost, but now am found;
Was blind, but now I see.”
And in an ironic twist, the prophet Jeremiah knew a little thing about clay as he talks of us being the clay and God, the Potter. And since God is the Potter, He is able to take our lumps of clay and shape them into a thing of beauty for His glory to shine through.
“But the jar he was making did not turn out as he had hoped, so he crushed it into a lump of clay again and started over. Then the Lord gave me this message: “O Israel, can I not do to you as this potter has done to his clay? As the clay is in the potter’s hand, so are you in my hand. “
In response to the daily prompt: Soil