What a terrifying thing to be hard soil! For if my only hope of recovery is to receive the sown word, what hope do I have if the seeds are all eaten by the birds before they take root in my heart?
This is a great Catch-22 of spiritual life, of which there are many. We seem to be able to reach a point of no return, where the very means we need to be restored are no longer available to us. It’s like the man at the pool of Bethesda who told Jesus (in so many words), “I’m too sick to get well! My infirmity keeps me from getting healed!”
We see this kind of dilemma all around us. Perhaps the most classic case is that of the narcissist, who cannot and will not accept any message about their own life that does not totally affirm their sense of self. They are incapable of self-examination or learning from their own life experience, because they cannot tolerate any shame or consider the possibility that they might have been wrong about something.
What a terrifying thought! It would be as if a person were incapable of feeling pain. What if they accidentally held their hand over a fire or cut into their fingers while chopping vegetables? We must be open to the truth when we are in trouble or we are doomed to self-destruction.
That is the plight of one who cannot hear. The message they need is no longer accessible to them. Bear in mind that being hard soil does not necessarily imply that the person is anti-God or totally evil. Hardness can just as easily be found in very devout people who would swear they are doing everything they can to follow God. That was the case with the Pharisees. But they were also unwilling to challenge their own assumptions about how they perceived life. And that was what made them hard. Whenever we become too sure we know all that we need to know, or too certain that our doctrine is all worked out and without error, we put our hands to our ears and block out whatever else it is that we need to know. That’s a scary proposition!
Our prayer must always be, “Lord, open my ears and my eyes. Keep my heart teachable and receptive to your love and your words to me. Let me never assume I have arrived at some place where I can no longer be refined.”[ more on Catch-22 to come in future posts ]