By Sarah Damm
“Jesus was not a theologian. He was God who told stories,” wrote Madeleine L’Engle in Walking on Water: Reflections on Faith and Art.
This quote reminds me of the disciples’ question of Jesus in today’s Gospel: “Why do you speak to them in parables?” (Matthew 13:10). I think God showed me the answer to this question and how it applies to me through the Parable of the Sower.
I was away from God for a little while. Not in the permanent sense but more in the vacation sense. I felt overwhelmed for quite some time, especially with areas related to my autoimmune disease, Hashimoto’s, and the various symptoms that go with it. I was trying this therapy and that supplement, working as hard as my fatigued body could work, and not seeing magical results. I was trying to keep up with my children and my home and give my husband more than my leftovers. Prayer seemed to be one more thing with which to be overwhelmed.
And yet, I never stopped thinking of God, never stopped missing Him. I could feel His gentle and patient presence step into the background as I tried to fix the myriad of things that were wrong with me.
That’s how God works. He is constantly inviting us into conversation and into deeper relationship. But He patiently waits for our response before acting further.
During this time, I realized that my soul had become rocky ground. I had faith and hope, and I once lived it with joy. But lately, the trials and tribulations of chronic illness felt like the scorched sun. My faith, hope, and joy were withering beneath the heat; I lacked roots to sustain me, and I was no longer bearing fruit.
Pushing prayer aside, especially while trying to deal with so much on my own, was doing more harm than good. It was making life much harder than it needed to be.
During the week my children attended Vacation Bible School, I decided to have my own “Grown-Up VBS.” I spent each morning in the Adoration chapel while my kids learned of God’s great love and how to share it with others.
As I sat with Jesus day after day, I heard Him say, “Hear My voice. Push aside the noise of this world and the noise from within, and listen to Me.” Every day the message was the same, just with different words, different Scripture quotes, and different imagery.
God was inviting me to be rich soil. To soak in His love, mercy, healing, and hope like rich soil soaks in the rain. He was inviting me into a discourse that would permeate my soul like the morning dew permeates the grass.
When we surrender to His invitation to be rich soil, God begins to till, to weed, to plant. God’s desire is that His will, word, and way would seep deep down into the souls of His sons and daughters. He wants His garden to take root and flourish. He opens up the possibility for virtue, knowledge, wisdom, and love to grow and spread like wild flowers.
God wasn’t promising me a life free from suffering, illness, or pain. But He was reminding me “that the sufferings of this present time are nothing compared with the glory to be revealed for us.” And even though the waiting period might be difficult, He was inviting me to wait in hope for one day when I would “share in the glorious freedom of the children of God.” (Rom 8:18-23)
Jesus told stories and spoke in images and metaphors, because those things have meaning. As children, stories and images come alive for us. They are real and meaningful, and we can reach out and touch them. But as we grow and innocence fades, “life loses much of its meaning” (L’Engle), and “meaninglessness inhibits fullness of life and is therefore equivalent to illness. Meaning makes a great many things endurable—perhaps everything” (Clyde Kilby, American author and English professor).
Jesus wants our childlike faith. He wants us to remember what is meaningful, what is real. That is the purpose of His parables. They make abstract concepts like the Kingdom of Heaven become real through the tangible visualizations of the sower, the mustard seed, the five talents.
Today’s Gospel helped me see how my heart had been like rocky ground, but that through His grace, power, and healing, He was planting it with His love, soaking it with His mercy, and reclaiming it again as rich soil.
What type of ground are you? If it is not rich, how is God tending your soul in order for it to flourish again? What parable or Biblical image speaks to your heart, allowing the intangible to become alive before your eyes?
About the Author:
Sarah Damm is a Catholic wife and mom to six children. She spends her days like many moms – running errands, helping with homework, and cooking meals. She writes at sarahdamm.com, and she is also a contributor with CatholicMom.com and New Evangelizers. She serves as a WINE specialist, focusing on the Read Between the WINEs book clubs, marketing, and communications.