I grew up in Farm Country with a Farm Family. I was potty trained behind tractor tires and spent Easter Sundays with shredded chicken sandwiches in the back of a pickup truck. I climbed in empty orange wagons for fun. Our family retired the Internationals when I was 16, but I have some familiarity around farmground.
Which gives me the authority to tell you: Jesus was a terrible farmer.
In two editions of his life story, we hear him tell about this farmer, representative of God, who sowed seed. Some fell on the road (and the evil snatched it up, we hear later), some in the thorny patch (choked by the cares of the world), some in the rocks (which withered when the sun came out) and then some in the “good soil” which reaped a healthy crop.
Anyone with a Life Application Bible immediately jumps to “how to become good soil” so the Word of God takes root and is fruitful. Well done.
If my dad’s good friends, all farmers, were to follow around this God Farmer, they would do so with satchels over their shoulders and dustpans in their hands to pick up all the seed God is wasting. I can hear the expletives escaping from Don’s mouth already, how only an idiot tosses perfectly good seed every which way.
God would make a terrible farmer. He doesn’t even know where to plant the seed. It goes in the field, God. Where it has a chance to grow.
Jesus offers us this parable for reasons that extend beyond an encouragement to “be better soil.” This is paradigm-shifting stuff. He’s moving us from commands – not to plant more than one kind of crop in the same field – to tossing around the seed all willy-nilly.
I see your eyes shifting slightly to the left, the way that they do when you wonder where I’m going with such an idea.
Because everyone was quite confused (Wingfield Farms wasn’t the first to figure out seed grows best in fertile soil), Jesus tells those closest to him “the seed is the Word of God.”
Fast forward to all the other little tales Jesus tells. Something about a treasure chest in the middle of a field and a pearl at a flea market… that’s funny. God’s treasures seem to be sown about in the most unlikely and unexpected of places. Nay, dare I say it, in the most unlikely and unexpected of people. Maybe the most unexpected experiences, moments and relationships.
In this life we have a few options. We can believe that corn goes in corn fields and beans go in bean fields, forever and ever amen. And we’ll find what we expect. We also might get a tad upset when a random weed creeps in, disrupting our work of perfection.
I believe Jesus invites us to a life of discovering God everywhere. The places you would least expect. In the Bible it was in a bush, in the belly of a whale, under the clear blue sky, and under an unpredictable plant. In the hick-town of Nazareth.
If God shows up there, who is to say he won’t show up in the football locker room? During the spelling bee. At the board meeting. In the simple act of teaching a child to tie her shoes. In baking for a family who grieves. You could say “God is in the small things.” Or, perhaps more accurately, there are no small things. There are no insignificant things. There are no insignificant people, places or moments in life.
God sows his seed all over this creation. His gift is the process of discovering it.
I’ve mentioned Sarah Bessey before, and my passionate love affair with her book Out of Sorts. I feel like we’re kindred spirits when it comes to this issue; she writes that God is in the work of our every day, normal lives. Of course, God is in the church work, the groups and studies, as we might expect. Church can be a bean field, filled with beans. Good soil. But please, dear friend, don’t limit God to that. Don’t put up a fence row and go on believing you’ve done sorted out all the details. Please don’t believe you’ve found all of God under that little steeple.
Our God is much bigger than where things are supposed to go and supposed to happen. He’s throwing Himself into everything. Perhaps it doesn’t always take root. Perhaps evil will steal a bit away. But He keeps throwing his seed around. He throws it around like he will never run out.
I want to live my life like that. With that kind of generosity; that kind of hope. May we live like God has planted Himself anywhere.