The reader of Scripture must come to a point where he or she considers how to embrace God’s Word when it is presented to us and to allow it to transform our lives. In that case, we become what Jesus calls “the good soil.”.
The good soil: Other seed “ ‘fell on good ground and yielded a crop: some a hundredfold, some sixty, some thirty’ ” (Matt. 13:8, NKJV). Now the story comes to the secret of a fruitful and fulfilling life: fertile soil. And what does fertile soil look like? In the context of this story, it would certainly be soil that was adequately cultivated, as opposed to the worn footpath. It would not have rocks just below the surface, thus being cultivated and deep. And it would be free of weeds.
What would this look like in human life? What does it take to be a deep person, a person with enough stability not only to weather the storms of life but also to be fruitful? How does one cultivate the soil of the heart and mind to build fertile depth conducive to growth and wholeness and meaningful fulfillment?
One of the significant ways we can cultivate the soil of our hearts and minds to create fertile depth is by regular self-reflection as we respond to our study of God’s Word. We need to carve out specific time in our busy schedules to do this. We need to find ways to quiet the many shouting voices vying for our urgent attention, and be still long enough to hear the significant voice of conscience, character, spiritual longings, and God Himself.
We can do this by asking ourselves some serious questions that tap into the soul’s archives: Whom am I trying to please? What needs am I trying to meet? With whom/what am I competing? What rewards am I seeking? What guilt or shame might I be covering?
It’s amazing how questions like these can lead to deep reflection. They attempt to deal with motivation; what is it that drives us to do what we do? What are the foundations upon which we’re building our lives? If we’re honest with ourselves in answering these questions, we are forced to realize that often we act from completely selfish and self-centered needs. We’re actually looking for our needs to be met in the wrong places, places that offer things in the end don’t really satisfy our real needs.
A Gary Larson cartoon depicts three frogs sitting in the middle of a dry, desolate desert amidst cactus, a scorpion, and a crack in the parched earth. Two of them have shovels over their shoulders. The third is pointing his shovel down to the ground and says, “We’ll put the swamp here.” Now that’s a clear picture of a misguided search, an elusive goal, the wrong destination.
The reason this cartoon is so profound is that one of the greatest temptations a person faces in life is to dig for water in the desert, to look for life where it cannot be found, to attempt to satisfy deep thirsts with unsatisfactory methods: He wants the promotion so he can be recognized so he can feel like he is somebody; she wants to please so she can fit in and feel like she belongs; she wants to earn that money so she can buy things to have status with her peers; he wants to compete and win so he can feel like a winner; he fantasizes so he can feel like he is in control; he wants his rival to fail so he can feel more successful. Humans spend a lot of time and energy digging for water in the desert.
The only soil rich enough to produce the harvest of satisfaction and contentment is one of depth. A life well-examined is the only life worth living. There must be a willingness to enter into regular reflection about the foundation of our lives, the character issues, whether or not our choices, our beliefs, our paradigms are based upon truth and reality bigger than ourselves, like the reality of God.*