“And others are those sown among the thorns: these are the ones who hear the word, but the cares of the world, and the lure of wealth, and the desire for other things come in and choke the word, and it yields nothing.”
One of my friends came over one day when I was making a garden in my back yard. I was laboring hard, clearing a patch of ground that was at the edge of the lawn and overgrown with clumps of crab grass. It was hot, back breaking work. Witnessing how I unearthed what seemed like the hundredth giant clump of tangled grass roots and banged them repeatedly against the ground to free the soil, my friend remarked, “You’re a real sod-buster.”
Today when I read Jesus’ explanation of the parable of the sower and the seed that falls on different kinds of ground, I was dismayed to find myself accurately portrayed by him. I clearly see that I am the seed sown among the thorns. I enthusiastically take in the Word. I have favorite authors whose books I love to read – Marcus Borg, Walter Brueggemann, and J. Phillip Newell, to name a few – and a good sermon moves me to tears. I am nourished by liturgy. When I engage in a spiritual discussion with my partner or friends, my heart soars to the highest heaven. I really love that kind of stuff.
But then I find my enthusiasm is choked out by other things. Anxieties about health insurance, the flooring in my kitchen, or my daughter’s life choices can squeeze the Word right out of me. Obsessing about what I said at that one meeting, yearning for the cushy job I see portrayed in that particular movie, lusting after an exotic vacation, or new furniture, or a pack of 240 really fine colored pencils, can turn me completely away from the God stuff that wants to take root in me. At the end of the day I can be so tangled up with the tantalizing crab grass of my imaginings that I’ve forgotten entirely about my relationship with God.
What helps? What gets me untangled is to engage in the exacting, tedious job of sod-busting – pulling up my anxieties and shaking the dirt off so their naked roots are exposed. Then doing it again. And again. When I do, I realize that all of them are pretty much the same. At base my fear boils down to a single, overwhelming worry: that I will not be all right, that I will not be taken care of. And my longing and obsessing is all a yearning for real joy and real peace, here and now.
What would happen if I simply trusted God to handle my earthly well being? What would happen if I looked to God for joy and contentment? Trust at that level is so radical it takes away my breath. It does seem like the right thing to do, though, doesn’t it? Certainly all my wonderful books point that way.
Trust like that is built in prayer. Prayer is another kind of sod-busting, maybe the ultimate kind. But it has to be a pretty regular discipline, I’ve noticed. This is true because even when I have pulled the noxious, choking plants in my spiritual ground and have thereby temporarily aerated my inner soil, I still live in a thorn-prone garden. Weeds can choke the ground at any moment.
In my daily prayer practice, I get reoriented. I remember that I can trust in God, and that God is in all my moments. I listen, and I hear.
Hopefully this allows the tiny seed to grow. With God’s help it will not only grow but also bear fruit. It will come into its own and do what it was meant to do – thirty and sixty and a hundredfold – even in this thorny ground.
Laurie Gudim is a writer and religious iconographer who lives in Fort Collins, CO. You can view some of her work at Everyday Mysteries.
“Hortus Deliciarum, Das Gleichnis vom Sämann” by Herrad von Landsberg – Hortus Deliciarum. Licensed under Public Domain