"Plow your unplowed fields, but then don't plant weeds in the soil! (1:3)
Tilling, Sowing, and Fertilizing Scripture
by Ed Cyzewski
The fields in my southern Vermont valley are still damp from the March snow melt. Streams running down the sides of mountains remain swollen, and the Battenkill River licks over its banks as it rushes toward New York state.
As the ground thaws over the coming month it will soon become possible to turn the earth. With a few consecutive days of sunshine and unseasonably warm temperatures the farmers will start up their tractors and plow their fields.
It's lovely to see freshly turned soil where yellow, barren stalks once stood from the previous year's harvest. Whether living in Pennsylvania, Indiana, or Vermont, the sight still does something to me-there's a wonderful anticipation in that act. Soon the farmers will be sowing seeds, waiting for the corn and soy beans to emerge. As for myself, I'll be turning over chunks of dirt in our own garden, mixing in leaves and compost, looking forward to patches of lettuce, sprawling tomatoes, and hopefully, heads of garlic if all has gone according to plan this past winter.
There isn't a lot of life there yet. Nothing is sprouting from the ground. However, everything I do in the coming months will have a profound influence on the health of this summer's crop.
And that brings me to reading scripture.
More often than not the act of reading scripture each day feels like the hard work of tilling a garden, hauling compost, and sowing tiny seeds. I think we sometimes set ourselves up for disappointment by expecting miracles to happen, angels to descend, or the Holy Spirit to drop in as we read these sacred words. Many times Bible study feels like, well, study.
It's not unreasonable to expect God to use scripture in powerful ways, and there are times when words jump off the page and into our lives, bringing renewal and the life of God. However, in the grand scheme of things, I think that reading scripture is a way that God tills the stiff, barren soil of our lives, sows words of life, and then, whether immediately or later, those words will sprout with power and relevance. In other words, we read scripture to get the life of God within us so that the Holy Spirit can water them and bring about new life. It may happen right away, but oftentimes we end up waiting for the benefits to become apparent.
Just as a farmer must always till, plant, and harvest every year, we have the same responsibility to continue reading scripture, sowing new seeds, and allowing God to raise up new life. When we least expect it, the seeds of scripture sown into our lives will be brought to life by the Holy Spirit.
Whether in my garden, at work, or in town, I have been noticing a powerful connection between the amount of scripture I read and my daily connection with God. God is bringing up stories, verses, and words as I pray throughout the day. It feels like the Bible comes alive in those moments, bearing fruit in ways I could have never anticipated.
The Holy Spirit is at work in our prayer lives and in our reading of scripture; however we sometimes must dedicate time to the hard work of letting scripture till and take root as we read it daily. We may not see the benefits right away, but if we can keep up with it, the harvest will be tremendous.