As he was scattering the seed, some fell along the path, and the birds came and ate it up. Matthew 13:4

It had hardened soilbeen a dry summer. The ground was hardened and cracked by the lack of moisture and the penetrating rays of the sun. Then the rain came. It wasn’t just a shower, it was a downpour. Raindrops pelted the ground viciously. Lightning and thunder joined in the onslaught. The ground became a river of mud. Then, it was gone. The sun came out, the skies cleared; the ground dried and once again was hardened.

I talked with an old farmer later that day. I mentioned how nice it was that we finally got some rain. I was surprised by the look of disappointment on his face. He took his hat off and rubbed his scalp.

“Didn’t do much good.” He mumbled as he replaced his hat, “Grounds to hard. Just ran off. What we need is a couple days of soft, gentle rain to soften up the ground so the moisture can get in.”

His words weren’t even out of his mouth when I remembered the story of the Sower and the Seed. Personally, I think the title is misleading. The seed really has little to do with the story. The Sower has some impact of course, but the main emphasis is on soil.

Hardened soil has something in common with hardened hearts. Hardened soil, in particular the hardened soil in this story, became hard because it was part of the roadway. Know what happens with a roadway? It gets trampled on. Day after day, week after week, month after month donkeys and horses and oxen and people walked up and down the path.

Our hearts are like that sometimes aren’t they? We all start out with hope and joy. Watch the wonderment and excitement of infants and toddlers if you don’t believe me. Every event is new. Every object is a chance to explore (and perhaps attempt to eat!)

But something happens to our heart. People, places and events walk all over our soul. At first it hurts. But the more we are trampled the harder we get until we lose all feeling. Then nothing seems to matter anymore.

Hardened soil reminds us of two dangers of hardened hearts. One is a warning of sorts not to become hardened in the first place.  Soil, like the heart, never becomes hard when it is nurtured. The only thing I’ve found to keep my heart soft is the realization of how much I am loved by Jesus Christ. People fail me. I fail people. Jesus never fails.

The second danger concerning hardened hearts is the assumption that once a heart is hardened it can never become soft again. This is a tool of the enemy of our souls. Hardened hearts become soft the same way they stay soft, with nurturing. If you pour a bucket of water on hard ground it runs off with little penetration and you may think the situation hopeless. But slowly run a garden hose over the area and after time the water stops running OFF and it runs IN. It takes time, patience and gentleness to soften hard ground. The heart requires it even more.

The same thing is true of a hardened heart. You may not think your kindness is doing any good but time, patience and gentleness, empowered by the love of Christ, can do wonders on a hardened heart.

PRAYER: Lord, I confess to you that my heart has grown hard by the things others have done to me. At times I’ve even blamed you! I’ve grown weary trying to love those you love because their hardness seems impenetrable. May I experience the gentle, penetrating and softening rain of your love in my heart so that I can share it with others. Amen.

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