The Master Gardener

Jennifer Lim, Volunteer Writer,  South Barrington | December 28, 2023

The seed that fell on the footpath represents those who hear the message about the Kingdom and don’t understand it. Then the evil one comes and snatches away the seed that was planted in their hearts. The seed on the rocky soil represents those who hear the message and immediately receive it with joy. But since they don’t have deep roots, they don’t last long. They fall away as soon as they have problems or are persecuted for believing God’s word. The seed that fell among the thorns represents those who hear God’s word, but all too quickly the message is crowded out  by the worries of this life and the lure of wealth, so no fruit is produced. The seed that fell on good soil represents those who truly hear and understand God’s word and produce a harvest of thirty, sixty, or even a hundred times as much as had been planted! 
Matthew 13:19-23 (NLT)

Did you know that making good soil takes work? Gardening has become an intense hobby for me over the last few years, and I have learned that keeping the plants in a garden healthy requires the right kinds of investment in the soil. For example, we have two pear trees that have not blossomed in a few years. After scratching our heads, we finally did a soil test and found it incredibly deficient. As a result, we have slowly begun to add things like compost, fertilizer, and mulch to build it up. However, even with a year of “investing,” our pear trees still struggled, and it will probably take us another few years to catch up. 

In contrast, at the beginning of this year, our family set up a raised garden bed. We kept the soil covered with mulch to prevent weeds and deter pests and added nutrient-rich compost to keep it all healthy. And wouldn’t you know it, the tomatoes, peppers, kale, and beans we planted grew ferociously.

The garden is such a fitting and rich metaphor for relating us to our relationship with God. A seed that is given the right environment establishes itself with deep roots, strong stems, and, eventually, sweet and rich fruit. But it takes effort to get there. It takes sifting out the barriers, adding in the right nutrients, and bringing it towards the light. 

What will it take for us to have those kinds of hearts? That kind of receptivity to God’s words for us? It takes intentional thought about our own environments, the kinds of people, messages, and space we surround ourselves with. It requires an open, honest, and humble curiosity. And many times, it requires steady perseverance, relying on faith that growth will come, but we might not see it for some time.

Next Steps

  1. Take a moment to reflect on these last few weeks. In this holiday season, it’s so easy to get lost in the emotions and forget to live intentionally. In thinking through the metaphor of our hearts as soil for the word of God, write down an impression, hope, or goal you have for your relationship with God. 
  2. Without God himself involved in growing us toward him, there is little hope that we can make it all happen by ourselves. Bring these impressions, hopes, or goals to God in prayer, with humility, and with the knowledge that he is ultimately the one who makes the seeds grow.