Meet Jean. She is a lovely, lovely soul. She writes with a clear conviction of why she writes and the Lord's grace flows through her words and into my soul. She is giving, caring, loving and all of these things are ours for the taking when you read her blog. Here is how she relates to the word "cultivate."
I live in rural northwest Ohio. Yes this city gal ended up in the middle of farmland. Since we moved here thirty years ago I have learned more than I ever thought I would about soybeans, winter wheat, and corn.
Before the farmer can harvest, before the plants grow, before the seeds are planted – the soil must be cultivated. Each year I watch the farmers get the ground prepared by using their tractors with their heavy plows to dig deep into the dirt, turning up rich dark soil.
I watch one farmer create a huge pile of rocks that also emerge in the process. Another works all day long to remove deeply embedded tree roots.
Many fields in our area reserved as CRP land or unused fields. Those acres are untilled for one and maybe more years. This is called fallow ground – ground that in unchanged, unproducing, and uncultivated. The surface is hard and full of weeds.
Harvest never comes without the plow first of all breaking up the hard, crusty soil.
When I ponder the word cultivate, I visualize the plow digging deep within the soil to mix things up. I see the soil becoming loose, open, and receptive – changed.
Reminds me of the verse in Hosea 10:12: “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.”
Cultivate my heart, Lord. Break up its hardness and plant your harvest of love within me.
The word cultivate scares me too. It tells me I can't just cultivate the surface to be transformed - I have got to go deep and that may hurt a little. I am not sure what will happen if God enters my heart’s darkest places.
Change me, Lord and farm my soul. Remove those embedded dead roots and cold hard stones. I know Your process may take time and may hurt but I trust You, my Gardener.
Yield – another interesting farm term. A yield is the harvest, what the ground produces once it is cultivated and changed.
And yet the ground had to yield first in order to produce.
Help me yield my entire being to You, Lord. Your harvest will flourish under Your care.
The whole concept of cultivation and change reminded me of the story about Eustace Scrubb in C. S. Lewis’s The Voyage of the Dawn Treader.
Eustace was a whiny boy. His greed leads him to put on a golden bracelet that he has found. The next morning he is shocked to discover he has turned into a dragon.
One night a lion leads Eustace into the woods to a beautiful pond. Eustace wants to get into the water to relived the itchiness of his skins but the lion tells him first to undress – to get out of his dragoness.
Eustace scratches and digs at his skin and the scales begin to slip off. At first it looks like it will work but soon he discovers another layer of dragon skin beneath the first one. He peels away the second skin only to find a third. Then the lion speaks,” You will have to let me undress you.’
“ I was afraid of his claws, I can tell you, but I was pretty nearly desperate now. So I just lay flat on my back to let him do it. The very first tear he made was so deep that I thought it had gone right into my heart. And when he began pulling the skin off it hurt worse than anything I’ve ever felt … Well, he peeled the beastly stuff right off – just as I thought I’d done it myself the other three times, only they hadn’t hurt – and there it was lying on the grass: only ever so much thicker, and darker, and more knobbly-looking than the others had been. And there was I as smooth and soft as a peeled switch and smaller than I had been … I’d turned into a boy again.” (C. S. Lewis, The Voyage of the Dawn Treader, p.91)
Cultivate. Change. Conversion.
My lesson about cultivation is that true conversion only happens when I realize I can’t change my skin or cultivate my heart on my own – only God can. He will go as deep as needed and deeper than I can do on my own - to turn over the hardness within me so new life can emerge. All I have to do is trust the Gardner.
Want to read more of Jean? Oh, yes. Yes, you do, friend. You can find her at Healthy Spirituality.