Are You One of These Four Soils?
Throughout my life, there’ve been seasons where, deep inside, I knew I needed a spiritual change. My attitude towards change, however, has often been another story. There’ve been times where I flat out didn’t want to change. For whatever the reason, I just wanted to do me. Period. On other occasions, I’ve made enthusiastic adjustments to my life only to have them fizzle out. Still in other seasons, I’ve been lackadaisical. Mustering up any true effort towards change just wasn’t going to happen.
What about you? Have you ever found yourself desiring change, only to get stuck?
I came upon one of Jesus’ stories the other day, the story of The Four Soils . I think it speaks to the issue of how we can get spiritually stuck (and unstuck for that matter). In it, each person has a heart condition that is represented through different types of soils. Their heart affects how they think. And how they think determines what happens with some seed that a farmer scatters. As the seed falls onto the different soils, change happens…or it doesn’t.
1. Some seed falls on good soil.
Let’s start at the end of Jesus’ story (because everyone starts at the end, right?). Here a farmer scatters seed on good soil. The good soil has just the right ingredients needed for the seed to grow into a plant and produce a crop. It’s the desired outcome of the story: a spiritually changed life! Jesus describes this person as “honest” and “good-hearted.” He describes them as people who “hear God’s word, cling to it, and patiently produce a huge harvest.” It’s easy to unconsciously write myself into this part of the story, to make myself the good soil. It’s not something I tend to do on purpose, but sometimes, I shift into this default mode of “everything’s fine” with my life. I don’t think there’s a problem with humbly acknowledging that the soil of our hearts is in good condition. I’ve noticed, though, that things can become problematic when we think that our heart soil is good to go…but it’s actually not.
2. Some seed falls on thorny soil.
Enter the thorny soil. The thorny soil actually starts off as a subtle situation. No visible thorns. No perceived danger. Yet gradually they grow with the seed. Jesus labels these thorns as cares, riches and pleasures. A person’s heart might gradually become overgrown with the concerns of this life. It might become more and more captivated with shiny object after shiny object. It might become out of balance trying to pursue more and more self-gratification. Slowly but surely the thorns grow, taking over. The nature of these extremes end up becoming distractions that prevent any meaningful harvest.
3. Other seed falls on rocky soil.
Up next: The rocky soil. This person’s heart joyfully accepts the message. The seed is able to grow for a little while. But life’s difficulties heat things up. The hot sun radiates down upon each soil type: the good soil, the thorny soil, the rocky soil, and the footpath. Difficult times come upon everyone. But the rocky soil prevents the seed from sending down deep roots to nourish itself during life’s hardships. Without this necessary root system, the plant is left to wilt. Jesus says this person falls away. What is this rock layer that ultimately causes the plant to wither? Attempts to specifically define it may be getting into the weeds (no pun intended). I think the greater question may be this: if I believe I’m in the midst of rocky soil, how do I overcome it? How do I get myself into a place where I am able to clear out the rocks, take on some nourishment, and find spiritual support through the challenges I’m facing?
4. Some seed falls on a footpath.
And now to wrap things up at the beginning of Jesus’ story! The footpath doesn’t seem like soil. But it is. It’s a place where others have walked to and fro over and again. The surface has been compacted, but soil of the heart is there. Jesus says that the message gets taken away from this person. The birds come and eat the seeds. Otherwise they would believe the message. They would be saved.
Some might feel like their heart is, at present, a footpath. They might want to believe the message, but something’s getting in the way. I’ve always leaned towards the idea of meeting God right where we’re at. Every time I’ve tried to shove down my feelings, thoughts, or concerns, they eventually end up boiling over. Every time I’ve been respectfully honest with God, I’ve been able to deal more frankly with what’s in front of me. In the long run, it’s helped me move closer towards change rather than further away from it.
As I finished reading the story, I found it worthy of note that none of the soils were disparaged. Jesus doesn’t mock or ridicule them. The outcome for each heart is clear, but a sense of disdain from Jesus…there is none.
If you’re like me—looking for spiritual change in your life—you might relate to one of these soil types. Each one has its own blend of ingredients that either help or hinder growth. In the next post, I’ll be exploring ways to become more and more like the good soil. I suspect that when we begin seeking this out, we’re going to be met with an exciting adventure!
 Luke 8:4-15