“Then he told them many things in parables, saying: “A farmer went out to sow his seed … “ Matthew 13:3
On my daily dog-walk there are many things to see if I look around.
But this I had missed.
Corn growing in a crack in the pavement. Its ears nearly full-grown.
The words of “that parable” were in my head as I looked. Years of being taught the meaning of seed being sown in different places. The consequences of those different places. Me always wanting to be the good deep fertile soil producing many many new ears of good seed! A good and faithful servant!
Along the way my good deep fertile soil was sifted and strained. Judged and graded. Critiqued and coached. The soil I was became the soil I should be. And “should be” always comes with transaction – the transaction of correctness (and wrongness) – which means biblical correctness (and wrongness). The taught seed became my investment and my return on my investment. Of how many “seeds” I could/should deliver (for God of course).
And then I found that this “transaction” – whilst taught as biblically correct – was perhaps the opposite.
That the God Soft Hands Jesus I had come to know and love doesn’t count as I was taught to count.
That this “seed” and investment/return was about us and not him. Was about proving that we were good and faithful servants – me with my personal cross of duty – me always ready to leap in where angels would be (and are) very much more circumspect.
I think I was taught transaction rather than love. Taught love is my obligation and duty. Learned the church smile and the church listening mask. Taught by example that networking was what went on inside my head whilst my mask listened.
I may be the worst Christian student ever. I may be the only one who wore a mask.
All of which went though my mind as I saw this small but perfectly formed and healthy plant growing where it had no right to be growing (we would say). In a crack in a pavement alongside a bunch of weeds with not another bunch of corn to be seen anywhere.
And yet “nature” keeps on breaking rules we like to set nature. We like to control and define nature’s “correctness”. And yet nature doesn’t even bother to disagree with us – nature just gets on and does what nature does.
I think that is a wonderful lesson in love.
I was taught to love (in one of four different Greek word ways). Taught that I was unable to love unconditionally (because that is the remit of God not man). Taught that man is flawed and God is not (and that “void” is filled with rules). Filled with transaction of behaviour of investment and return – and all wrapped up in the teaching of “Grace Freely Given” so long as I obey the rules of being loved unconditionally (or isn’t that the essence of making unconditional “conditional”?).
Yet love – like God Soft Hand Jesus – keeps breaking the rules. Keeps popping up in places love has no right to be (we would say). And NOT just in the homeless smelly stereotype I was taught – but in every human living and breathing – in everyone who behaves as I think they should or not – in everyone who is correct or not – in everyone who is living and breathing … and without regard for the labels I give them or insist they carry.
I think this parable is about love – not “seeds” or saving souls. I also think we are born with “good deep fertile soil” that is of love. And then we are taught that love is conditional. That love has to be earned. That we are full of sin and badness. That we cannot love without condition no matter how hard we try.
And therein, I think, is the crux of the problem.
Because when I try to “love” it is inevitably a performance. One from which I need time off. Just like any role or job.
But I have children.
I have parents. I have brothers and sisters and a wealth of other relations and friends. All of whom love me and I them without condition. All of whom are different and unique with labels a-plenty of behaviours AND beliefs.
I wasn’t taught to love them. I just did and do. Without condition.
So how come I was taught in church that only God can love me like that and I can’t?
It’s amazing where he takes me when we go dog-walking (if I allow).