I do not have a green thumb. My gardening skills are severely lacking, so much so that it took me months to realize that the big, green leafy thing growing in my planter was not the perennial I planted the year before, but a wildly abundant weed garden instead. A gardener I am not.
But, God is the master gardener, is He not? Multiple passages in Scripture utilize plant or fruit analogies. There’s the tree by the stream in Psalm 1; the tree planted by water in Jeremiah 17; Jesus’ discussion of the good trees and bad trees and the fruit they produce in Matthew 7; and Jesus’ reference to himself as the vine and God has the gardener in John 15 – just to name a few.
Yes, God is the ultimate cultivator. He is the Gardener, we are His garden and He tends to us with the utmost care and attention to detail. In Matthew 13:4-22, Jesus tells the parable of the sower. The sower went out to sow some seed. Some fell along the path, some along rocky ground, some among thorns, and other seed fell among good soil. The seed that fell along the path was snatched away by the evil one. The seed that fell on rocky places couldn’t flourish because it had no root. The seed that fell among the thorns was choked out. Only the seed that fell among good soil flourished.
The key to the health and fruit of the seed is the soil in which it is planted.
Farmers know and understand this concept and therefore take great measures to cultivate their soil. Soil under adverse conditions may become compacted…the little pockets of air beneath the surface are squeezed together. When this happens, water and nutrients no longer move through the soil, making it more difficult for roots to grow.
And yet, care also has to be taken not to over-cultivate the soil. Cultivation disrupts the soils natural structure. Extreme cultivation pulverizes the soil’s structure in such a way that it may become even more compacted in a short period of time, again making it difficult for roots to grow. Cultivation also brings weed seeds to the surface. Weeds, like thorns, can ultimately choke out the good seed, making it impossible to gain the nutrients needed to grow. (Source landscape-america.com)
So what does all of this have to do with cultivating bold-humility? At the beginning of the year, I prayerfully sought the Lord to grow me in bold-humility in 2011. Since that initial prayer, I have consistently, even persistently, prayed to see this fruit produced in my life. And the Master Gardener has been faithful.
Over the last six months the Lord has been cultivating the soil of my heart. Were He to have just sown the seed of bold-humility, it likely would have fallen on rocky or thorny soil. I might have seen some initial growth, but soon the heat of this world and the worries of this life would have destroyed it and I would be as barren as before. But, He knew that and has taken great stride to uproot the rocks and thorns and weeds that would hinder His purpose for me.
He has tilled up the soil of my heart and brought to the surface the roots of the fear of man; the desires for autonomy and control over all aspects of my life; and narcissism (an obsession with self manifested in desires for respect, affirmation, recognition, and glory, among other things.)
He’s used the tools of my godly husband who overcame his temptation to be passive and instead boldly stepped toward me, leading me in a discussion of these sins in my life. He’s used the tool of Scripture, namely Paul’s epistles that exhibit Paul as a man of great boldness, yet a man very well aware of his own insufficiency and unworthiness. He’s used the Gospel, which tenders my heart more each time I hear it, making me more receptive to the seed He is sowing.
His first step has been to uproot me, to turn the soil over, pulling everything to the surface that will hinder growth of bold-humility. One could easily be overwhelmed or tempted to despair in all of this, but I am not. Instead, I trust He is bringing me to a place of godly sorrow and repentance, which must be present if I wish to see fruit manifested in my life. I find I am eager, hopeful, and anticipating the fruit I know only He can produce. I am ready to be free of these things that choke out the life He intends for me – the life of His Son exhibited in me.
So, till, churn, and cultivate my soil, Lord. May your will be done, not mine. Don’t give me what my sinful flesh desires. Don’t give me over to my cravings (Ps. 106:14-15) Instead, increase my desire for you, your will, your glory. Help me be self-forgetting. Help me crave you above all else to the point that I am dead to the world and live only to you, in you, by you, and for you alone.