Jesus once told a story that has now become one of his most known. Not the “Good Samaritan” or “Prodigal Son” parables, but the story of the four seeds.
We know the drill.
Some seed fell on the path; the birds moved in to eat it up.
Some seed fell on rocky places; it sprang up quickly in shallow soil, but the sun came up and scorched it, for there was no deep root.
Some seed fell among thorns; the thorny plants grew themselves and choked the plants.
Some seed fell on good soil; this produced a crop of varying measures—thirty, sixty, even one hundred fold.
As probably you, I’ve known this parable all too well—even taught and preached on it. It’s easy to think that, once you’ve told others what to think about a Scripture passage, you’ve now mastered the text.
Yet, as any wise shepherd and teacher of Scripture will remind you, the text is not to be mastered by us, but rather we are to be mastered by the text.
It was recently that I sensed the Lord drawing me toward the seed and soil text. I’ve been in the Psalms for the past few months, slowly reading through them. Yet there I was, in the quietness and stillness of a summer’s morning when I was drawn to the gospels and to the parable of the seeds and soils. Matthew 13 was the version I took up, though you can find it in Mark 4 and Luke 8 as well.
On that morning I was already reflecting on how time literally beckons us toward patience; it calls us into slow processes. I’ve personally come to appreciate these realities more and more over the past few years.
Taking a fresh look at the seed and soil parable once again underlined just how important patience is.
What I noticed about the first three sets of seed is that they all carry a sense of immediacy in their growth. I imagine the birds instantly latching on to the seed that fell along the path. We’re told that the seed amongst rocky soil sprang up quickly. Perhaps the seed upon thorny ground did not break forth in any rapid sense, but I’m sure the thorns attacked quickly. I say this about the thorns in light of my experience with the weed-like vines that grow in my own backyard. Within a couple of weeks of these vines being cut back, they are suddenly back over the fence, crawling up the telephone pole, literally leaping up into tree branches. It feels so suffocatingly evil at times!
In all, I was struck by these three seed situations and how they each exhibit a general sense of rushed immediacy.
This is in contrast to the fourth seed, the one that actually bore fruit.
I am no horticulturist, but as anyone would be aware, it takes time for fruit to sprout from any seed. We have, or my wife has, tried her hand at growing varying herbs, fruits, and vegetables over the past years. When some little sign of the plant pushes through the soil, you get this little rush of excitement to finally see something. Still, you’re very aware there is quite a ways to go before there’s anything edible.
Matter of fact, in the case of the seed that both sprouted amongst the rocky and thorny ground, the farmer would have seen something. But neither of those lasted. More time was needed to prove the immediate growth was just that, immediate but not lasting.
It’s the seed amongst good soil that took its time, but it was this seed that produced an actual crop. It is the good stuff that is produced through patient processes. This is also true with a host of other things such as beer, wine, cheese, and the sort.
We “know” this stuff. It’s just that we find it so hard to accept. We are the microwave generation, expecting all our problems to be fixed in a mere two-minute microwavable session. We are obsessed with instant gratification; waiting is for the cows!
I know; I’ve practiced this much of my life.
Considering the point of how much fruit is bore—thirty, sixty, or a hundred—if something is going to produce thirtyfold, that’s what it will yield. You can come back next year and reap the same measure, but it’s capacity is pretty much set (unless you use seed from the new fruit to plant more). At times you’ll have seed that will yield sixty or a hundredfold.
But remember this: Don’t harvest the crop before it’s time. Let the process run its full course.
In many ways, when it comes to harvesting, it’s a lot easier to read the readiness of the fruit than the readiness of our own lives. Half-green tomatoes and small watermelons tell us we need to wait just a bit more.
How will we know when it’s time to partake of the fruit?
There’s no five-point list to follow, but this is why we aren’t on the journey alone. Contrary to much of our practice of spiritual disciplines today (and waiting is a spiritual discipline), waiting is to be done in the midst of community. Others walking with us generally ensures a better discerning of the mind of Christ.
I have some things I am waiting on these days; you as well. Some of these I’ve been waiting on for a few years now; you the same—or perhaps you’ve been waiting much longer.
I’m not exactly sure when the waiting period will be up. It might not be complete anytime soon. Heck, some things might never yield a fruitful crop. And that’s hard to swallow. But I am convinced that, while waiting is painful and confusing and frustrating at times, it is good for the soul. For it is in the patient processes of time that we are authentically shaped in the image of Jesus.
Here is to more seed landing on good soil, seed that is given the allotted time needed to produce a crop, whether it be thirty, sixty, or a hundredfold.