Not long ago, on a mid-morning date, my wife and I visited our favorite local bookstore in downtown Columbia. As Jessie browsed the new novels, I gravitated toward non-fiction, and one book caught my attention: Good Soil: Manure, Compost and Nourishment for Your Garden. It’s the most gorgeous book about manure I’ve ever seen.
And it really is about manure—more than 250 pages on its chemistry, fertilization, and use in gardening. The point of the book: Plants need nutrients to grow, flourish, and bear fruit, and whether we like it or not, manure is an essential source of these nutrients.
What’s unlovely, even unwanted, is the secret to good soil, healthy plants, and tasty food.
The Scriptures are full of references to gardening, farming, and the agricultural life. Psalm One envisions the godly person as a tree planted by streams of water, which yields its fruit in season and whose leaf does not wither.
When our roots grow deep into good soil near hidden streams of life-giving water, we have no fear of drought or storm, and our fruit will endure.
In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus turns our attention toward the flowers—look how they grow without hard labor or busy spinning. Worry not: God clothes them, and if he clothes the flowers in unparalleled majesty, how much more will our needs be met with abundant provision.
On the night before his death, Jesus invited his followers to abide in him—he is the true vine, our Father is the gardener, and we are the branches. The invitation to abide is to remain in the vital union between vine (Christ) and branch (us). Apart from the vine, we are like a flower pulled out of ground and lying on the concrete—as good as dead. But in him, in the union described with words like “love” and “joy,” we remain grounded, nourished, and secure.
The Christian life is about being planted in good soil, remaining vitally connected to Christ, drawing on his resources, and bearing fruit to the Father’s good pleasure.
So what’s in that soil?
Manure. Sort of. If I can press the illustration, the good soil we cultivate is the less-than-glorious, not-instagram-worthy dirt of life. It’s messy, brown, smelly; you get the idea. But it contains the hidden nutrients for our growth, flourishing, and fruit-bearing.
GOOD SOIL is a twice-monthly meditation on spiritual formation, community, soul care, church planting, and anything else that relates to earthy living.
My writing over the years has focused on these areas, but this is a place to explore new ideas, reflect on the slow, hard way of Christ, and build community around this theme.
Welcome to GOOD SOIL.