Check Your Soil
When I was a kid I wasn't too in tune with the earth. I mean, at one point in my childhood I was walking out of Home Depot with my parents and begged them to buy me one of those cute little cactus with a flower on the top of it. I put it on the window ledge in my bedroom, gave it a bit of water, then forgot it existed. Cue 12 weeks later, ignorant childhood Stephan opens his bedroom curtains to find a dead cactus. Yes, I had neglected it so much it had died.
So, when I tell you I never had luck growing plants it shouldn't come as a shock.
One of the key reasons I never had luck growing anything, though, wasn't just because I didn't know how to take care of a plant. It was because I didn't know anything about soil.
In my previous post, Know the Seed You Need, I shared with you Jesus' explanation of seed in the Bible from Mark, chapter 4. In this post, I want to revisit this and show you what Jesus teaches about soil.
Mark 4:3-8 (NIV)
3 “Listen! A farmer went out to sow his seed. 4 As he was scattering the seed, some fell
along the path, and the birds came and ate it up. 5 Some fell on rocky places, where it
did not have much soil. It sprang up quickly, because the soil was shallow. 6 But when
the sun came up, the plants were scorched, and they withered because they had no root.
7 Other seed fell among thorns, which grew up and choked the plants, so that they did
not bear grain. 8 Still other seed fell on good soil. It came up, grew and produced a crop,
some multiplying thirty, some sixty, some a hundred times.”
Jesus offers a spiritual understanding to each of these four types of soil in the following verses, which I highly encourage you to read. But, he also highlights a very simple idea that we need to remember if we want to grow: Check your soil.
Many times when we don't experience growth, we blame the seed, the environment, or other factors, but how many times do we check the soil? The soil is where the seed finds its nourishment. All the minerals, chemicals, and other "-als" that seed needs comes from the soil. The wrong soil can slow or even completely prevent growth. The right soil can accelerate growth!
Using the soil examples that Jesus presents, here are the three soils that prevent growth, and the one that accelerates it:
Jesus says some seed fell along the path and the birds came and ate it up. One of the reasons growth stops is because the seed never makes it into the ground. Why? Because it's too busy being eaten by the birds.
Who in your life is a bird? I know there have been people in my life that if I share an idea, vision, or dream with them, they QUICKLY devour that idea by preaching the death of it to me. Why it won't work, why you're not qualified, why no one will buy it - these are just a few of the things birds use to devour your seed. How do you avoid this scenario? STOP SCATTERING SEEDS WITH BIRDS AROUND.
It's really simple. Don't share your ideas with the negative people you know. Does it mean you can't love them? Absolutely not! Does it mean you can't sit down at Thanksgiving with them and dine together? Of course not! It just means you create healthy boundaries that keep the birds out.
Jesus then shares the second soil - the rocky places with a bit of soil. The seed grows quickly in this case! Then, just as quickly as it sprouted, it's scorched by the Texas heat.
This is the soil you have when you lack true, passionate conviction about growth. It's the person who commits to lose weight and get healthier, but after one personal training session at the gym, they wake up to a sore body and their brain tells them chocolate cake would be the most beneficial thing for breakfast (because they deserve it), and they quickly give up.
It's the church pastor who is committed to the spiritual growth of his church, so he introduces a new vision outlining what he sees as the best plan to make that happen. However, when a few cranky busybodies form their own unofficial "We think the pastor doesn't know what he's doing" committee, that weight of criticism overtakes him and he decides to cancel his original plans.
It's the wife who knows the marriage is "on the rocks", and says marriage counseling is definitely needed. Then, after a few sessions, the counselor points out something she needs to change first before she can ask her husband to change something, and counseling ends immediately.
Essentially this ground is made up of the people who like the sound of growth, and will even take the first step toward it. As they find out that growth will take some extra work, though, they quickly die off.
Jesus describes seeds scattered among thorns that were choked to death. He admits the seed makes it to the ground, but something else is growing there and takes precedence.
When you know growth is needed, but you allow worry to choke your future growth, you have thorns. It is impossible to grow, or to cultivate growth, when worry is allowed to fester. There has to be a mindset change. I'll talk more in a later post about some helpful ways to do this, but for now, start with this post.
Good soil is what we all want. This is where growth takes place. It's the soil with all the minerals and nutrients, absorption qualities, and safe environment for the seed. What if I told you that this good soil isn't perfect though?
When you go to a plant nursery, or a hardware store and ask them to point you in the direction of their soil for sale, you'll notice that the closer you get to that aisle, the more distinct a smell begins to invade your nostrils. It's familiar, yet confusing. It's rancid, yet beautiful.
Well, manure for those of you who prefer not to use the c-word. Most of the soil that provides healthy growth has a specific percentage of manure mixed into it. Why? Because manure has chemicals that most soil doesn't. Because manure has portions of healthy nutrients excreted from the animal it came from. Gross? I know. But incredibly important.
The greatest successes I had came out of seasons with a large percentage of cr-...manure...in them. I mean those things that I was sure I planned for, but still postponed my success. I mean the challenges that came up because of poor planning. I mean the unexpected costs for that business. I mean the people who pushed back on my leadership. I mean the failures, the obstacles, the confusion - just a bunch of...oh, I'm gonna say it...CRAP!
Here's what you have to know about that manure in the mix. Manure can either be thrown out because it stinks, or it can be utilized for the benefit of the seed. When your intention is to experience growth and help others grow, you welcome manure because you know that it can be converted into something that accelerates growth.
All the things I listed above are things that helped me grow! They stunk in the moment, of course. But without birds, thorns, and rocks, I was able to convert and converge the manure into the soil that was committed to growth, and saw incredible transformation from seed to fruit!
Now that you have some clarity on the soils, figure out which soil you're dealing with. Are you giving away your ideas to squawking birds? Are you lacking a white hot commitment to experiencing growth? Are you a full-time worrier? Or, do you just have some situations that stink?