Preparing the soil of our lives

A Christian Science perspective: Life lessons from some bad carrots.

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This year, my wife and I started a garden. We got some great lettuce in the spring, as well as cucumbers in July – but the carrots were disappointing. I think the problem was the soil. I’m guessing it proved too hard for the carrots to penetrate the ground and grow. I wondered, Had I prepared the soil well enough?

As I thought about this, it occurred to me that the garden held a lesson with regard to the aspirations I held for myself and my community. I suspect we all share some of them. For example, just as I’ve wanted my garden to grow this summer, I’d like financial stability for my family and for my country. I’d like my kids to succeed in their lives. And I’m hoping for an increasingly productive career.

And just as I needed to prepare the soil for the vegetables, isn’t it important for all of us to prepare the soil of our lives for the growth we’d like to see?

To be honest, I was only interested in getting some carrots. I hadn’t been so interested in preparing the soil. But next year, I don’t think I’ll be so quick to put the seeds in the ground until I’ve done the necessary preparatory work. Along the same lines, I’m asking myself if I’m being patient, thoughtful, and diligent enough to do the preparations in my life that will bring the fruits of success.

Jesus used a parable to speak of the relationship between the soil of our lives and the fruit that follows: “A sower went out to sow his seed: and as he sowed, some fell by the way side; and it was trodden down, and the fowls of the air devoured it. And some fell upon a rock; and as soon as it was sprung up, it withered away, because it lacked moisture. And some fell among thorns; and the thorns sprang up with it, and choked it. And other fell on good ground, and sprang up, and bare fruit an hundredfold” (Luke 8:5-8).

The parable suggests to me that we should give this issue of the soil plenty of consideration. When it comes to our lives, Jesus indicated this means things such as being “pure in heart” and “merciful” and being “peacemakers.” Cultivating these qualities brings those fruits, those blessings, that our lives need. “Blessed” we will be, he said.

In an article for Cosmopolitan Magazine in 1907, Mary Baker Eddy addressed the issue this way: “Dear reader, right thinking, right feeling, and right acting – honesty, purity, unselfishness – in youth tend to success, intellectuality, and happiness in manhood. To begin rightly enables one to end rightly, and thus it is that one achieves the Science of Life, demonstrates health, holiness, and immortality” (“The First Church of Christ, Scientist, and Miscellany,” p. 274).

So what if, instead of thinking so much about how to end rightly, bringing about success and fulfillment, we thought more about how to begin rightly – about being pure in heart, merciful, honest, and so forth?

I find there are a couple of reasons I might hesitate to make this shift. First, there’s the issue of trusting that a spiritual way of addressing things will be effective. “But come on!” I tell myself. “Haven’t you seen how shortcuts bring no lasting success?” I’ve noticed that in the jobs I’ve had, advancement always came after I began rightly, by approaching tasks thoughtfully and honestly. I’ve gained clarity on how listening to God and expressing divine qualities set the stage for future blessings.

The second issue I struggle with is that preparing the soil of our lives, like in a garden, is not always the most pleasing work. You’re digging up dirt and setting things in order. You’re identifying and removing the error of impatience, willfulness, or selfishness in thought. Sure, it sounds more fun to receive the prize than to do what earns it. But I’ve found that through the effort, there’s a peace that makes the preparation worthwhile. Perhaps it’s simply the knowledge of having done what’s right. Then, when the fruits come, they’re almost like icing on the cake.

Health, stability, and productivity are all right things to have in our homes and world. And our divine Creator has set up our lives so that we may bring all these things to fruition. Rather than being anxious about how we’ll find them, we truly can focus on preparing the soil of our lives. And we shouldn’t be surprised if we end up with very abundant crops!

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