It is amazing what you can find on the internet, should you take the time to look. Having just been struck by the following lines in Hosea:
Ephraim is a well trained calf that loves to thresh, but I will place a yolk on her fine neck. I will harness Ephraim; Judah will plow; Jacob will do the final plowing. Sow righteousness for yourselves and reap faithful love; break up your unplowed ground. It is time to seek the Lord until he comes and sends righteousness on you like the rain.
I was curious and decided to spend a little bit of time exploring compacted soil and how one goes about aerating it. Through this process I found a forum dedicated to raising, and looking after, your family milk cow! Pretty cool stuff.
More pertinently, I also discovered the difficulties involved in rejuvenating soil that has been compacted and leeches of its nutrients. This is an apt metaphor, it sounds a lot like me. The soil originally had a purpose but, often slowly and through lack of careful attention, it grows neglected like
poisonous weeds in the furrows of a field.
There are machines that help to aerate fields but they struggle when you start to get deep. From my fifteen minutes of research, it sounds like the best way to aerate fields is to plant hardy grass that develops deep roots systems and clovers that reintroduce nitrogen to the soil. The problem is, should the dirt be really barren, the grass wont grow. Not without constant care, nurturing and attention.
How much does this sound like our spiritual battles? How appropriate is the concept of dirt that has been compacted and consequently hardened into a flatbed where nothing can take root? This sounds so much like me and my world it isn’t funny.
I remember, when I used to work in North Sydney and live about a 20 minute walk away, encountering wave after wave of charities attempting to dredge donations. You know the type, they hire the perky travelers who through lack of shame and humorous accents wave and jump until they have your attention. SNAP! The trap is set. You’re in for the 3 minute spiel…
Well, when I first started in North Sydney I didn’t mind it too much. In fact, if the charity was operating in an area I was interested in I’d often stop to pick their brains on the latest developments in the UNHCR or the like. Over time though, after having to dodge an average of three potential best-friends-if-you-donate types each time I left the office, I started to receive these guys more cooly. By the end of one year living within walking distance, I had had enough. I wasn’t even polite when they approached me anymore. I didn’t want a bar of it, I just wanted to get my sandwich without being accosted, my heart was hardened.
So too I’m sure my spirit is reacting in the same way. Each disappointment or trial, each tribulation compacts the soil of my soul into an evermore dense mass.
Interesting, this passage points to two remedies. First, to toil on the land (metaphorically speaking). There are instructions to “break up unplowed ground” in preparation for the rain. This is important to remember as, whilst God can do everything on his own, he chooses to involve us actively in the process. Consequently I need to prepare the landscape of my heart. I need to reflect, and consider, and rebuke the rough edges of my psyche to ensure my soul is as receptive to God’s word as it can be. Notably, this involves hard work. It isn’t going to come of its own accord.
For me, this often means putting aside the disappointment of my illness and frustration with my current lot. It means reminding myself of God’s abundant provision so I don’t get distracted by my temporary drought.
Second, awaiting God’s rain. I’ve explored this metaphor earlier whilst reading James and it is a good one. I can do all the work in the world, but without God’s rain it is a futile endeavor. This is good for keeping head sizes in the normal range.
It is a good mantra: soft hearts receptive to God’s rain. No doubt it’ll lead to good crops too!