A reflection on this past year, inspired by Jesus’ parable of the soils in Matthew 13.
There’s this deep work that God wants to do in me. It can’t be done on the surface-level of my life but only at the soul-level.
And it seems like everything in my world works against it. Even many of the ways I was taught to live and lead in the church…
And this creates a dissonance.
A wrestling with God.
This is how I’ve always done things.
But this is not how He wants to do them in me.
The things He longs to do require my soul to be ready in a way it never has been before.
In a way that much of my faith life has not yet prepared me for.
He tried to show me His true way of living long ago. I caught a glimpse, but the busyness of a “religious life” distracted me and I remained stuck where I was. I even made excuses for it – even learned how to justify it with Scripture – but it really just burdened my soul.
So He tried again to take me down this path He has for me. He took me by the hand and walked with me a short while.
But soon the pressures to perform “religiously” bore down on me and I let go of His hand – soon failing at my own attempts to make it down the path myself.
I tried to make sure people still saw how successful I was at it though – so they didn’t notice I’d let go of His hand long ago – but that merely increased the tension in my soul.
And so He tried patiently, yet again, to show me the fulfillment that only His way could bring me. I experienced the fullness of it just enough to know He was so right.
But nevertheless I gave in to desires that were fleeting and led to no where but weariness and emptiness. Desires that have even been made acceptable within my “religious circles.” I masked them with a correct amount of piety, of course, hoping no one would see – but that simply made it feel like my soul couldn’t breath.
Then things started happening that disrupted me.
They broke thru the hardness.
They provided me temporary protection.
They brought clarity and removed distraction.
They plowed the soil of my soul.
They readied me for what He had for me all along.
And so this time, when His work began, I was now ready to let Him lead His way.
He’s been breaking apart the hardness of old ways.
He’s been fighting back the intensity of deep shame.
He’s been removing the idolatry of selfish motivations.
And what He is producing now cannot be contained in what I was told would hold all He had for me.
It does not fit within the expectations of what’s been imposed on me.
It will not be limited by the scorecard of “how things have always been done” that’s been told to me.
His way of true life will reshape every way I’ve ever lived, and there’s no way I’ll go back to a “normal” that never produced what He wanted anyway.
No matter how much the “religious status quo” cries out for me to.
His way of true life will reshape every way I’ve ever lived, and there’s no way I’ll go back to a “normal” that never produced what He wanted anyway.Tweet
This past year has disrupted my life more than any year previously. The pandemic was merely one of the plows used to make my soul ready for what God wants to produce.
God already had begun the work long before, and there were many other things he used this last year to make me good soil.
He has certainly done significant work on my soul at previous times in my life. But His work has been new and deeper this past year.
And I truly believe He desires the pandemic to have been a plow for His people in the world. Yet it grieves me to watch so many who call themselves Christians – especially Christian leaders – still miss the work God longs to do thru the plow of the pandemic in their lives and amidst God’s people.
But many seem to be fighting it. Why? Because we’ve been so conditioned by this world – the hardness, the heat, the weeds – it all works against being ready for what God has.
Too many Christians are still living out of the immaturity we’ve inherited and not living into the maturity God has made us for.
Too many Christian leaders are still trying to lead in ways that haven’t actually produced the results we say we want and are not actively reintegrating the original pathways of transformation that Jesus taught.
It just burdens me to watch…and the evidence of how far off the mark we’ve been for so long has been seen this past year in so many ways: political idolatry on all ends of the spectrum, continued and stark racial division within the church, the harsh words we continue to see exchanged between believers, a lack of humility and self-awareness by those who claim to “know” the most about Jesus (even many with seminary degrees and titles to lead in the church), etc.
So many continue to be hardened by their pursuit of what’s comfortable or what they’ve always done.
So many continue to be burned by a way of faith they were taught that keeps producing shame and surface-level spirituality.
So many continue to be satisfied by the temporary enthusiasms of a “spiritualized entertainment” or “check the box of tradition” church culture.
I know. Because I’ve been surrounded by it my whole life. I was taught to live it. I was trained to lead others into it.
And yet all along I’ve noticed it too rarely produces the way of Jesus. At best it makes someone more “moral” and gives them enough knowledge to puff themselves up.
The soil of our souls are not being cared for and the desires of our hearts are not being transformed by the current conditions of contemporary religious expectations.
The pandemic revealed this in very public ways. But so many, too many, continue to just go back – and even lead others back – to the old ruts of hardened paths.
Maybe your life has been plowed and the soil of your soul has been readied, but you still haven’t allowed God to form new pathways to produce the fruit He desires. And the temptation will continue to be stronger than ever to simply give in to the cultural currents of the old expectations.
But we all know that the old ways weren’t working anyways (and that includes what many of us were taught was “church”).
And unfortunately there will be those who are so invested in the “old ways” that they aren’t interested in helping you navigate these “new ways” (which are ironically actually the original ways).
But what you will find, if you will venture into these plowing pathways of transformation, are mothers and fathers of the faith that can help lead you to discover new terrain.
You will find a community of people navigating by faith and depending on the Spirit’s guidance.
You will find certainty and mystery in who Jesus is and the inspiration of His word.
You will find rhythms of life that not only help you survive but thrive in the harshest of conditions.
And you will find the ruins of old expectations, old models, and old structures that are now being overgrown by what God is producing in the soil of people’s lives who are devoted to Him in deep ways.
There are more people than you may realize who are going thru this same process of the plowing of their souls and the re-seeding their faith, and are interested in what it looks like to do it together and not merely return to the ways things have (only recently) always been done.
It may feel scary at first.
It will definitely feel a little awkward.
But the results will be what you’ve been looking for all along.
And don’t worry, He knows what He’s doing.
He knows the only way to produce what you need most.
And what you need most right now is for the soil of your soul to be ready to receive the seeds of the kingdom He longs to plant in your life.