Wednesday, June 22, 2005


Not Just A Shepherd

We've all heard the parable of the sower. He casts his seed, and the ground can be hard as stone, underlain by stone, choked with weeds, or, less commonly, receptive and fruitful. This is taken to describe people before they're saved: the hard ones never get it, the ones whose soil has rocks underneath come and go in a hurry, the weeds kill off the interest but in the rare person the Gospel takes root and grows.

I thought that was pretty much it. Once you're through the narrow gate that passes under Jesus' cross, the soil issue is past. Then Eric gave me a pilot version of a book he's writing about this parable for my critique. I made some suggestions, but came away with the seed of an idea. Perhaps this dirt thing isn't static after all. What if God keeps tilling the soil and changes it? Is it possible?

I was about as hard as they come, but God's aim is precise, his guidance unerring as long as people don't exert their wills to deflect him. I no longer cared very much about where I went when I visited Mosaic, and God tossed that little seed into the one crack that would admit it.

The new plant turned out to be pretty muscular. It pushed my hard-packed soul aside and established a very deep root. Since then he has continued tilling and working my soul. We're used to thinking of Jesus as a shepherd, but he's also good at this soul-rebuilding process.

He knows the right combination of love-rain and encouragement to keep the work going. He has these marvellously sensitive tools for the work. I don't really know how he does it. He dissolves the rock, outshines the weeds, exploits every crack in the beaten path, all the while protecting the new growth that comes up because now there's a strong advocate for new ways.

Self-judgment hardens the ground. Habit ignores the attempts to rebuild the soil. Trying to do God's work for him in the interest of saving him time just makes a mess of it.

This is God, the One who made the universe, the one who designed all the complexity of soil. He knows his dirt, and he knows his souls. Given a chance he'll turn the lousiest dirt, the hardest rock into a gloriously blooming garden.

And all for his own name's sake. This still bothers me a bit. What need has God for more glory? The stars shout his name, the very stones underfoot know who he is. Why should I add to that? Well, maybe because he deserves it. It also seems that the alternative is to praise myself, which is a disaster waiting to happen.

For his name's sake. We talk a lot about honor, but it doesn't mean much. Just ask Native
Americans how much honor means in our culture. God, however, does what he promises to do, because he says he'll do it.

He likes gardens. I'm glad. He has his work cut out to bring blossoms to my soul, but he's doing it. He really is.

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