Soul Soil

Recently my minister friend, Mimi Dixon, was preaching on Matthew 13. She asked me to describe what it takes to cultivate good soil. Celtic Christians have often taught that the Earth is the first Scripture we read and so I agreed, reflecting on what Lady Terra Firma might want us to know.

For soil to be ready to receive and nurture seed, we must first take stock of it. We have to get down on our knees and thrust our hands in. We have to get dirt under our fingernails. We have to squeeze it in our hands and sometimes smell it. I’ve even heard farmers talk about tasting the dirt. (I gave that up in the third grade and I’m not going back.) Preparing soil is dirty work. You can’t do it in your Sunday best or your good shoes.

After getting up close and personal with the soil and determining what is needed to bring it to the place of being ready to receive seed, the soil must be broken.

Around here in mountain clay, it’s backbreaking work, best done with a pitchfork thrusted into the ground. With all the weight and force that can be mustered, the metal tongs must pierce the earth, shattering the surface that has grown hard with years of being walked upon, with years of weathering. What was underneath must come to the surface.

My grandfather taught me to work with the earth by applying a little moisture. A little water will loosen up the soil, creating a grace between the granules that allows for the necessary breaking and churning.  

Once the soil is broken, nutrients are worked in. Nutrients in the form of grass and water processed through the south end of a northbound cow. (We’ll pause right here, while you work that out.)

Now, these “nutrients” aren’t ready right after processing. Right after processing, it’s only waste matter--what’s left when all the good has been taken out. This processed grass and water is the diseased, the discarded, and the useless. In nature though, (like the kingdom of God) nothing is wasted.

What is needed is a little transformation time. Processed grass and water is worked into a compost pile where time and heat will transform what was a waste product into something that is essential for good soil. If the waste isn’t processed fully it will plant alfalfa seed wherever it is spread (a hard lesson I learned in a now defunct strawberry garden gone wrong). If the compost pile isn’t turned and tended, it will begin to stink up the neighborhood and grow things even Dr. Frankenstein might be afraid of.

The nutrients are ready when they don’t stink any more and nothing is germinating—then it’s time to work it into the broken soil. Allowing it amend what was lacking, heal what was broken and create a rich environment for receiving and nurturing seed.

Soul soil works in a similar way, even the soul soil of children.

Perhaps something is this post resonates for you or for a child in your life?

Are you experiencing the breaking and churning?

            Where is the water, the grace that allows?

Are you experiencing the transformation of waste product?

            How can you participate in the turning and tending?

Are you on the other side, experiencing the growth of good seed that came from transformed soil?


Good, Good Gardener Jesus, thank you for tending our soul soil.