Thursday, November 20, 2008

Crowded Soil

The seed that fell among thorns stands for those who hear, but as they go on their way they are choked by life’s worries, riches and pleasures, and they do not mature (Luke 8:14).

My daughter has a small cactus plant in her bedroom. I have no idea why. It sits on her desk looking harmless. It appears to be covered with little bristles, something not unlike peach fuzz. Those nearly microscopic hairs lured me into carelessness not long ago. While retrieving a pair of soccer socks for my daughter I knocked over her cactus plant and picked it up with my bare hand. I probably shouldn’t admit that, but there it is.

I spent the next few minutes trying to visually identify and then surgically extract tiny cactus thorns from my fingers. Good times.

This element of Jesus’ parable is interesting in that it isn’t directly concerned with the soil upon which the word of God has fallen. In fact, the soil involved here is good soil. The seed takes root. It yields healthy growth. Trouble is, God’s word isn’t the only thing growing there. Thorns are growing too. And those thorns choke the word.

The soil that gladly receives God’s word is often crowded soil. The worries of this life, riches and pleasure, these things are found in good soil. And these thorns are like the hard to see stickers of a little cactus plant. We know they are there, but they are not obviously threatening. We grow careless with them. At some pint, our fingers and hands get scraped and bloodied. All we feel is the thorn. God’s word has been choked.

The worries of this life: schedules, children, children’s schedules, tuition payments, business deals, strained relationships, roofs that leak and cars that quit, health issues, employment issues, razor sharp thorns all.

Riches: these do not threaten the wealthy only. All of us want things. All of us worry about money, the money we have or the money we lack. The news these days braids a wicked crown of money thorns and worries-of-this-life thorns. Daily reports press it onto our furrowed brow.

Pleasures: pleasures we chased that let us down, pleasures we’ve yearned for and fear we’ll never have. Pleasures we regret. Pleasures we keep trying to re-live.

During Christmas time we sing a hymn that says “let every heart prepare him room.” That’s the task that confronts us when it comes to the thorns of worries, riches and pleasures. We need to clear room so that the thorns don’t choke the life out of the God’s word to us. In yard-work terms, this is the tedious work of weeding.

Prayer is our best tool in the soul-work of weeding. In prayer we identify the thorns that keep God’s word from being productive in our lives. In prayer we name our worries and we confess the desires that rival God’s claim on us. To neglect prayer is to grow careless and pick up the cactus plant with your bare hands. That kind of pain can be easily avoided. It just requires being attentive.

What thorns most threaten God’s word in your life today?

Gracious God, our hearts are crowded with so many things that choke the life of your word. We are a tangle of worries and desires. Remind us today that in our worries and desires, your grace is sufficient for us. Help us to prepare room in our hearts for you as we come to you in prayer, bringing our fears and longings. Amen.

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