Soil Toil

Image by mwahl from Pixabay

Today, if you hear his voice, do not harden your hearts. –Psalm 95:7–8 NIV

Every year when it’s time to plant our garden, my husband works hard to prepare the soil for the seeds.

First he plows, turning the hardened earth over and under. Then he tills it, breaking up tough clumps of sod and removing the rocks that rise to the surface with the churning—and there are buckets full still, after forty years. Then he works lime and fertilizer in the loose soil with the tiller—and, of course, removes more rocks.

Only when the soil is loose and porous, and boosted with nutrients necessary for plant growth does he drop in the seeds.

Even then his soil toil is far from over. Throughout the growing season, he must keep working it, tilling it to keep it loose and soft, plucking those endless rocks, pulling weeds, and periodically adding more lime and fertilizer.

After every hard rain, the soil hardens again, more rocks appear, and he must hoe around the growing plants so the nutrients they need to grow could filter through to the roots. And, of course, pick rocks.

Even after the harvest the work isn’t done. Plowing the whole thing under allows the decaying plants to add more nutrients to the soil over the winter.

Then, the following spring, he starts all over. The ground always needs work.

Just like our souls. We need a lot of work, too—over and over. The work is never done on this earth.

It all starts with a hardened heart that cannot accept the seed. To get our attention, God often turns our lives upside-down, breaking up tough clumps of stubbornness and rebellion. Then, to soften our hearts even more, He keeps things churned up until we are submissive and workable. Rocks of selfishness and willfulness, which crop up daily, must be removed. Storms of life also tend to bring them to the surface.

But the seed needs nutrition to grow, and too many idle years result in a depleted soul, fallow and barren. To remedy this, the lime of prayer and the fertilizer of fellowship with more mature Christians must be applied—by the bagful.

But we’re not ready to produce a harvest yet, are we? Those weeds of worldliness must be carefully twisted out of our hearts, where their roots reach deep, leeching the nutrients and choking the tendrils of spiritual life.

Only after all this toil—plowing, tilling, hoeing, rock plucking, fertilizing, watering, weeding—can our soil-soul support growth and eventually produce a harvest.

But there is never, really, any one type of soil, is there? Perhaps that’s why I’ve always had trouble answering the question, “What kind of soil are you?”

I am not one type of soil, you see. I am all of them.

Dear God, thank You that soil can be changed. Thank You for changing me—little by little, rock by rock, weed by weed. Amen.

Read and reflect on Matthew 13:3–9, 18–23.

From God, Me, and a Cup of Tea, Vol. 3, © 2019 Michele Huey. All rights reserved. Used with permission.

Contact me @ michelethuey@gmail.com if you wish to use this.

Sifting Season

Simon, Simon, Satan has asked to sift you as wheat. But I have prayed for you, Simon, that your faith may not fail. And when you have turned back, strengthen your brothers. – Luke 22:31­–32 NIV

When I first started baking—back in the dark ages of kitchen technology—almost every recipe that called for flour required that it be sifted. So when I furnished my first apartment, I bought a neat little avocado green sifter. And I used it, too.

Nowadays I don’t even own a sifter. Not because I don’t bake—well, I bake sometimes—flour just doesn’t need to be sifted anymore. It’s missing the lumps and the extra protein, a.k.a. bugs, that were once reasons for sifting. Plus the compacting that occurs when flour is handled and stored (in my case, for long periods of time) isn’t the problem it used to be.

Our modern flour caters to our hurry-up lifestyle. Anything that eliminates a step or two and shortens the process is the way to go.

But even with modern flour, sifting can still be beneficial. It separates and aerates the flour particles so they absorb better the liquids called for in the recipe. And sifting gives the flour a silky texture, fluffy and light.

Like flour, we, too, need to be sifted. Modern times have increased, rather than decreased, the need to separate the good stuff from the bad. Life’s rough handling leaves us with lumps of pain and confusion, and the bugs of an increasingly godless culture infect our minds, hearts, and spirits without us being aware of it or wanting it to. Overcrowded schedules press us down, leaving us helplessly wedged under the weight of too many commitments and too little time.

So every now and then we enter what I call the “sifting season”—a season of trouble, of heartache and pain, of problems with no answers and seemingly hopeless situations over which we have no control and which don’t make any sense to us.

Discouragement and doubt settle in for a long, unwelcome stay. We pray, but the ears of Heaven seem closed. We ask, but don’t receive. We seek, but can’t find. We knock, but the door remains shut tight.

Like the psalmist, we weep in despair, “Why have you forgotten me?” (Psalm 42:9).

But God has not forgotten us. He has allowed this season for a purpose: to sift us like flour, so that our lumps of stubbornness and selfishness are broken up, the bugs that have contaminated our very souls are removed, and we absorb better the truth and wisdom of God’s Word. It is during these times that the wheat is separated from the chaff as we learn what’s really important and what we can do without.

The sifting takes time, for the life of faith is not a hurry-up lifestyle. There are no shortcuts to holiness.

But, like all seasons, the sifting season will come to an end, and we’ll have the texture of a more mature Christian—silky, fluffy, light and free, and much better able to be used in the recipes of God.

Why are you downcast, O my soul, and why are you disquieted within me? Hope in God; for I shall again praise him, my help and my God. (Psalm 42:5).

Read and reflect on 1 Peter 1:3–9; Psalm 42

© 2019 Michele Huey. All rights reserved.