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.
There’s a word for soil that will not grow anything. We call it hardpan. Something happens underneath the surface when ground is not worked for a series of growing seasons. Layers of clay calcify into an impervious shield, preventing water from reaching the subsoil and stopping the possibility of any moisture from seeping back up. The result? No more topsoil to grow anything new. What once was fertile loam becomes something akin to impenetrable concrete.
Hardpan. It’s an apt description for the condition of people who have lost touch with their inner life. At times, this comes from years of consistent neglect. At other times, it can be traced to a crushing event or broken relationship somewhere in the past that is still unresolved. Though it’s not a foolproof test and by no means scientific, here’s a telling question: When was the last time you cried?
I remember a particular day on the farm growing up. It was a day between seasons—a day between winter’s resting and spring’s testing. I stood by my father at the break of dawn, in a frost-caked field of fallow ground. This ground needed a deeper healing. He hooked the tractor to an implement called the subsoiler. It was a different kind of plow with long, slowly curving, ground-grabbing, claw-like tines of wrought iron steel. Though simple in its spartan design, the subsoiler required our largest tractor to pull it. As plumes of the blackest smoke rose from the tractor, the plows dug into the ground to what seemed like the depth of a grave. Reaching the stuff of the subsoil, somewhere between molten clay and petrified ash, the plow pierced to depths long deprived of the sky’s breath. Unfurling ribbons of earth above the ground, the thrilling scene indelibly impacted the spirit of my childhood. As I remember it again, I feel the wondrous churn of that boyish soil rising from the subterranean depths of my fallow heart.
Might it be time for some subsoiling in your life?
Our Father in heaven, nearer than my breath, thank you for these days of Advent and this new year in Christ. Show me to the fallow ground in my own heart—places long neglected, even forgotten. Break through the hardpan surface with the plow of your cross. My soul must breathe the deeper air of your Spirit. So much of the past, the subsoil of my life, needs healing. Turn the soil in ways that transform my life. Come, Holy Spirit, awaken me to the possibilities that I might be willing to embrace the promise and pain of deep transformation. In the name of Jesus Messiah—the one who came, is here, and is coming again—for his glory and our good, amen.
Take a tour through the fields of the farm of your heart and mind. Where is the fallow ground? Will you invite the Lord to plow there with the subsoiler of his Spirit?
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