February is “preparation” month for my home garden. It’s the time of year when the fruit trees and blueberry bushes need pruning…cutting in faith for a plentiful harvest. This is also the time when the garden beds need attention. Now is the right time to work my soil.
It’s been a mild winter in Oregon’s Willamette Valley. And while Spring is not yet officially here, nature is excitedly behaving as if the new season has begun. Flowers are everywhere, bursting color like popcorn!
And there are weeds. Weeds. Prolific weeds! If I don’t tend to my space now, these weeds will quickly go to seed, creating a big mess.
Nip them in the bud! Or better yet, rip them out by the root!
Before the groaning over yard work becomes as loud as an ocean roar, let me share something that excites me about this!
The origin of mankind, as recorded in the Bible, tells us that really bigchange was initiated with the creation of earth. The very first scripture in the Bible says,
“In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth.” (Genesis 1:1: ESV).
Soil! God began a new thing…beginning with dirt!
Why does this excite me? Because it sets a protocol for both where and how change occurs.
True and lasting life changes begin at ground level.
That’s good information to know, isn’t it? If we are looking to implement change and do not know how to go about it, wouldn’t we want to know where to begin? But I am getting ahead of myself. Let me show you more from Genesis.
Look with me at these Bible verses:
Genesis 1:11 says, “And God said, ‘Let the earth sprout vegetation, plants yielding seed, and fruit trees bearing fruit in which is their seed, each according to its kind, on the earth.’ And it was so.”
Genesis 2:7 says, “Then the LORD God formed the man of dust from the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and the man became a living creature.”
Genesis 2:15 says, “The LORD God took the man and put him in the garden of Eden to work it and keep it.”
I find it fascinating that God made dirt and with dirt He made mankind. Genesis does not describe plant life nor animal life to have been created this way. It was humanity that was made from “dust of the ground.”
Now, I believe that the “breath of life,” also mentioned in Genesis 2:7, completely transforms, but that’s a post for another day.
What I am sharing here is, knowing this origin of mankind strengthens my understanding of how my heart can be like soil that needs tending and where change must begin.
Documented in the New Testament of the Bible, Jesus told a story, often called “The Parable of the Sower.” In this famous story (found in Matthew 13:1-23, Mark 4:1-20 & Luke 8:1-15) Jesus explains that the soil is like the heart of a person and the condition of one’s heart effects their ability to produce fruit.
I love this story. I never tire of its applications!
Both this parable, and the Genesis documentation of creation, entrust mankind with the responsibility of caring for the garden. Genesis 2:15 (ESV) says that “God took the man and put him in the garden to work it and keep it.”
Please stay with me here…I’m digging a little deeper into these words for the sake of clarity. There is good stuff coming, I promise!
The English translated words, used in Genesis 2:15, “work” and “keep” came from the original Hebrew word “abad,” and “shamar” respectively. According to the NAS Exhaustive Concordance, the definition of “abad” is “to work, serve and cultivate.” While the definition of “shamar” is “to watch, preserve.”
Knowing the meaning of “work” and “keep” helps to define what kind of responsibility we have with our soil…our hearts. When I hear the word “work,” my mind equates it with “toil,” which sounds really hard and exhausting. When I hear the word “cultivate,” my mind thinks “fostering growth,” which feels a lot lighter and more enjoyable. The same is true of “keeping.” It’s my job to preserve the heart I’ve been given…a gentle, loving…trusting heart.
When my precious babies were born, God gave me a responsibility to work and keep these tender new lives. I held that honor in high regard, loving on them like nothing else. I believe that is how we are to treat our hearts…like precious children God created.
What about you? Does changing the word association help? Does it soften the lines around Christianity a little?
Take a good hard look at what’s been coming out of your life. What kind of fruit have you been producing? What are the problems you see with your life? Be fair and honest in your assessment. Acknowledge both the fruit of love and the fruit of fear. Are you generous, but over-commit? Do you love your kids but are an inconsistent disciplinarian? Are you a great starter and lousy finisher? What needs to stay? What needs to go?
Digging in the soil can bring up things that are painful. This is the heart after all!
There was a time in my life when good things were intermingled with no-good. Just like the photo of the dandelion and the chard (below). There was an individual who had a strong influence on me in both healthy and sick ways. Terminating that relationship meant I had to give up a part of my life I really enjoyed. Frankly, I did not want to make that sacrifice. By the time I did, it was such a source of pain that it took years to heal. It was the right thing to do, and saved me from further destruction. Eventually, I came to a place of gratitude for the good of that time and for the preservation of good that ending the relationship gave me.
It is important to work and keep your soil in the right season. Weed pulling might be a year round activity, but there is a time when the soil is ready for work and times when it’s not.
Is your heart hard? Or cold? The symptoms of this can include (but are not limited to) disinterest, anger, denial, or fear. If your heart is hard, friend, seek the Lord! Pray for His love to soften your heart. Spend time in His presence and in His Word. He will meet you right where you are! This might be your time for rest.
If this is not your digging season, that’s okay. Sometimes we need someone to acknowledge and give us permission to be okay with where we are when we do not have the strength to give it to ourselves. You are okay. Pray to know your seasons. Be grateful for the season you are in and honor it. God is in control of your seasons.
If it’s your season to dig…
True and lasting life changes begin at ground level. That is where the foundation is leveled and set, ready to support something new. While it’s quick and easy to swap out what is on the surface, making changes that do not begin at the root will set us up for either constant maintenance or non achievement of the desired outcome of change. No bueno!
I hope you’re not afraid to get your hands dirty because heart work can be messy! Take off your rings and peel off those press-on nails. Don’t even think about putting gloves on…some dirt under your nails is good for you. Frankly, my friend, you might have been too clean until now!
Dodging the work of digging…leads to self-sabotage.
I like to call it, “leaving the back door open.” It leaves an escape route available “just in case.” Just in case what? Just in case this is too hard? Just in case I don’t like it? Just in case I’d really rather stay within the predictable walls of the prison so familiar? And that’s exactly where the “escape” route leads…back to being tethered to the thing we were trying to be free from in the first place!
That, dear friend, is fear. If this is familiar to you, you’ve got a talking snake in your garden! Shut that voice down!
Take the time you need to really work…serve…cultivate your heart. Love on it! Appreciate it! Give it a good massage. What will you find? What great things will you preserve by pulling out the choking weeds?
It feels so good to run bare hands through freshly prepared soil! It’s warm, unencumbered and teeming with life! There’s joy to be found in a job well done…be proud of good work!
I can’t wait to plant some seeds!