Prepare Your Soil
Maybe you want to cultivate a healthy lifestyle or break unhealthy addictions. Maybe there’s a specific relationship that needs nurturing. Perhaps you long to know that you are living a meaningful life, leaving a legacy, or changing a family tree. Whether it’s your kids, your career, your faith, your education, or your finances, if you aren’t cultivating it, then something else matters more to you.
If it matters to you, you’ll cultivate it.
But here’s the rub: it has to matter to you. Real change comes from deep below the surface, where action is first ignited. If what you are longing for really matters to you — if that seed has been planted at your core — then you’ll risk stepping into the mess to nurture instead of neglect. You’ll stop doing things the way you’ve always done them and start breaking new ground.
During the uncultivated days of my marriage, if you were to ask me what my priority in life was, I likely would have told you it was healing my relationship with my husband. But based on my actions, my business mattered more. Since everything else felt beyond repair, work is where I placed the majority of my attention — so that’s what grew. My work became my worth.
Our actions follow the desires of our hearts.
My heart can feel pretty messy some days. I want to do the right thing and make meaningful progress, but I mess up or don’t know how to do it. I want to do it all and do it all well, but I’m human. I’m flawed. And I need help.
So how do we grow what matters when we are flawed and forgetful? Jesus tells us the answer:
For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also. — Luke 12:34
We choose God as our treasure, no matter how many times we mess up along the way, and by His grace, the desires of our hearts will transform. By His grace, we don’t have to transform our own hearts; we just have to surrender them.
We cultivate what we pay attention to.
We grow what we sow. And we aren’t growing this life alone.
Above all else, guard your heart, for everything you do flows from it. — Proverbs 4:23 NIV
New Habits Versus Heart Change
God could have waved a magic wand to make us believe and know everything about Him instantly, but He didn’t. He gave us a big Book, big hearts, and the gift of time. He knows that it takes time to amend the soil, remove the rocks, choose good seeds, break ground, plant, and grow good things.
One year I set out to read the Bible from start to finish. My why drove me forward — thinking about the big picture and how I might be changed for the better by knowing God’s truth. It was hard work, and I didn’t finish in a year, but the time-frame didn’t matter. A cultivated life isn’t grown from rules or a timetable; it’s grown from a relationship with the One who transforms our soil and our souls.
Break Up Your Fallow Ground
The biblical expression “Break up your fallow ground” (Hosea 10:12; Jeremiah 4:3) means to clear your heart of thorns and weeds to prepare it to be fruitful.
In Bible times, land was allowed to lie fallow — or uncultivated — in order that it might rest, replenish nutrients, and become more fruitful for another season. But when land was in the condition of lying fallow, it soon became overgrown with thorns and weeds. So the cultivator of the soil would be careful to “break up” his fallow ground — clearing the field of weeds before sowing seed in it.
When we “break up” our hard ground, the good seed of the Word of God will have room to grow and bear fruit.
Sow for yourselves righteousness; reap steadfast love; break up your fallow ground, for it is the time to seek the Lord, that He may come and rain righteousness upon you. — Hosea 10:12
When I wanted to expand my vegetable garden, I realized that there were a couple of things in my way: two giant hedges with deep roots. I’d go out to the garden to water the plants each morning, and I would dream about what I’d grow where those hedges were: corn, peppers, more zinnias, and sweet potatoes. The space was right by our family room windows, and it would be a great spot to watch the bees and butterflies in the summer. Grace would love harvesting sweet potatoes, and honestly, the hedges were pretty boring. I convinced myself that trying to remove them was worth it and made a plan. I would saw the hedges off at ground level and then dig out the roots with a shovel. It seemed doable.
Well, my little handsaw barely made a dent in the first trunk I attempted to slice, and my shovel hit the roots like hitting bricks. I ended up having to call someone who chained the roots to his ATV and pulled them out. It was quite a scene. A gaping hole in the ground was left where the hedges once resided, open for me to fill it with new soil and some happy sweet potatoes!
The shame, guilt, and challenges of our past can be much like those hedges. They take up space in our lives that could be used for better things, and their roots run deep. We often let them stay where they are because they seem too hard to deal with and nearly impossible to remove.
For me, believing the lie of perfection — that I had to do it all, and do it perfectly — was a hedge that was holding me back from flourishing. This lie was also holding me back from developing true heart-intimacy in my marriage, from leading boldly, and from being fully alive.
So I began to think about the possibilities. What good things could grow if this lie were removed? What new space and energy could I have?
If you were to remove the barriers that are holding you back from flourishing, what positive possibilities would have room to sprout? List those possibilities.
Some of the barriers in our soil may take much more than an ATV to remove. They may take time, wise counsel, and a slower, more careful removal. Whatever is needed, know that removing the barriers will be worth it, no matter how long it takes or how hard the process is to get there. You are opening up room to flourish. That kind of work is always fruitful.
Remember that in choosing to dig down and examine what soil isn’t working, we are going to have to get our hands dirty. It may be challenging and humbling to name our mistakes, our past, and our broken pieces. But, friend, there is such power in exposing what is buried in the dark depths of our souls and bringing it into the light. God can redeem and refresh your soul.
His grace is waiting to grow something new out of what feels messy. You can look at your flaws and fears as impossible roadblocks, or you can see your challenges as opportunities for grace to cover everything.
Every little bit of lifeless earth in your heart is a pocket of purpose that God wants to completely transform.
I’m so grateful God isn’t done with me yet. Keeping the soil of my life healthy and plantable is a process, not a destination. And it’s always worth it. The process of tilling up the soil with Him brings deeper joy with every part of my life that I surrender.
Redeemed dirt is powerful growing ground.
Excerpted with permission from Cultivate by Lara Casey, copyright Lara Casey.
Watch the Trailer for Cultivate
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Do you have some fallow ground to break up? Habits that need a heart change? Dirt that needs to be redeemed? I do. Let’s pray together today to surrender our messes to the Lord, thank Him that we don’t have to be perfect, and trust Him for the restoration only He can bring! Come share your thoughts with us on our blog. We want to hear from you! ~ Laurie McClure, Faith.Full