Shake Off That OLD Dust and Move Onto Your Better Soil

This past weekend I have come to close a stage in my life, that I had made difficult for myself! I laugh at myself, not knowing why I made it so hard? But now I’m looking toward the future and preparing myself for moving on with my life.

If I continue to live in the past, it makes it difficult for me to enjoy and appreciate what I have in the present and almost impossible to have hopes and dreams for the future. Reflection is an important part of dealing with the past and no one can tell you how long this process will take but in order for growth there comes a tyme when I have to say enough.  My past will stay in the past and I am ready to start afresh.  We all experience cycles of change for lots of different reasons.

One always has to know when a stage comes to an end.  If we insist on staying longer than the necessary tyme, we lose the happiness and the meaning of the other stages we have to go through. Closing cycles, shutting doors, ending chapters – whatever name we give it, what matters is to leave in the past the moments of life that have finished. Did you lose your job? Has a loving relationship come to an end? Did you leave your parents’ house? Gone to live abroad? Has a long-lasting friendship ended all of a sudden? You can spend a long tyme wondering why this has happened.

You can tell yourself you won’t take another step until you find out why certain things that were so important and so solid in your life have turned into dust, just like that.  But such an attitude will be awfully stressing for everyone involved; your parents, your husband or wife, your friends, your children, your sister, everyone will be finishing chapters, turning over new leaves, getting on with life, and they will all feel bad seeing you at a standstill.

None of us can be in the present and the past at the same tyme, not even when we try to understand the things that happen to us.  What has passed will not return; we cannot for ever be children, late adolescents, sons that feel guilt or rancor towards our parents, lovers who day and night relive an affair with someone who has gone away and has not the least intention of coming back.  That is why it is so important (however painful it may be!) to destroy souvenirs, move, give lots of things away, sell or donate the things you have at home. Everything in this visible world is a manifestation of the invisible world, of what is going on in our hearts – and getting rid of certain memories also means making some room for other memories to take their place.  Let go & let God!

Release them! Detach yourself from them! Nobody plays this life with marked cards, so sometymes we win and sometymes we lose. Nothing is more dangerous than not accepting love relationships that are broken off, work that is promised, but there is no starting date, and decisions that are always put off waiting for the “ideal moment.” Before a new chapter is begun the old one has too be finished:  tell yourself that what has passed will never come back. Remember that there was a tyme when you could live without that thing or that person – nothing is irreplaceable, a habit is not a need.  This may sound so obvious, it may even be difficult, but it is very important.  Closing cycles.  Not because of pride, incapacity or arrogance, but simply because that no longer fits your life.

Tucked away in the narrative of the earliest days of the church is a fascinating and funny story. In Acts 18:5-8, the apostle Paul and his team are in Corinth, and he initially spends his tyme preaching to the Jews, but they oppose him and become abusive. So Paul shakes out his clothes in protest and says, essentially, “Fine! If you’re not interested, from now on I will go to the Gentiles.”

Here’s the funny part: Paul leaves the synagogue and goes next door to a Gentile home, where there is a person of peace, and it’s the beginning of a lengthy, fruitful ministry in Corinth. This is a story about what to do with “difficult soil,” and highlights a principle of fruitfulness in disciple-making and gospel ministry: Cast seed widely, but concentrate your efforts where the harvest is ripe. If the harvest isn’t ripe, move on.

I can imagine Paul feeling frustrated that his own people weren’t responding to his message. Oftentymes I’ve felt this way when I’ve really wanted to see a harvest among a certain sub-culture, but it just isn’t happening. It seems right to “keep plugging away,” and “stay faithful,” but the New Testament pattern doesn’t seem to line up with this approach. It’s a bit like Jesus’ parable of the soils – the farmer throws seed all over the place, but only 25% of it bears fruit. It makes sense for the farmer to cultivate the crops that are growing in good soil as opposed to spending tyme trying to coax them out of rocky or thorny soil. Ultimately the total harvest will be better if he concentrates almost all of his tyme on the good soil.

Interestingly, the (Jewish) synagogue leader Crispus becomes a believer after Paul gives up on preaching to Jews in Corinth and goes to the Gentiles. Moving on to better soil can often bring the original fruit you were looking for. It’s a good reminder that this is God’s work, we’re just workers in his harvest fields, participating in his kingdom work in the world. The trick is discerning which season is which, because we can easily normalize fruitlessness in the name of “faithfulness,” just like we can excuse ourselves from the battle in the name of “looking for better soil.”

There are tymes when one must move on because the soil isn’t ready. Moving on, in such circumstances, can be good for both the sower and the soil. The sower may stumble upon soil that is fertile and ready, whilst the soil that has been left behind has the opportunity to lie fallow so that in due tyme it might become rich and fertile. This demands a bi-focal lens when it comes to faithfulness and fruitfulness: embracing the BOTH/AND of fruitful opportunism and faithful tenacity, the pragmatism of testing the soil and working where the harvest is ripe, and the prophetic passion and sight to see potential in unlikely places and fight for the breakthrough.

Now there will be temptation(s), however, to move on to greener pastures rather than moving on in search of better/richer soil. Greener pastures present a great temptation to the sower because they appear lush, fertile, and teeming with life.  Moving on to better soil, however, is different (I believe). When one moves on to better soil, one expects that there will be difficulty and hard work. One isn’t fleeing the hard tymes in search of that which is easier. Rather, one is looking for a place where one’s toil is both purposeful and fruitful. All of that to say, better soil doesn’t equate to ease or even a bountiful harvest. Better soil may be a place in which one person out of a hundred experience life change.

So shut the door, change the record, clean the house, shake off the old dust but yet keep your hands on the plow and tile for you BETTER SOIL!

*Resource: windsweptworship (photo), Paulo Coelho, Ben Sternke & Joshua Rhone
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