Jesus went out of the house and sat beside the sea. Such great crowds gathered around him that he got into a boat and sat there, while the whole crowd stood on the beach. And he told them many things in parables, saying: “Listen! A sower went out to sow. And as he sowed, some seeds fell on the path, and the birds came and ate them up. Other seeds fell on rocky ground, where they did not have much soil, and they sprang up quickly, since they had no depth of soil. But when the sun rose, they were scorched; and since they had no root, they withered away. Other seeds fell among thorns, and the thorns grew up and choked them. Other seeds fell on good soil and brought forth grain, some a hundredfold, some sixty, some thirty. Let anyone with ears listen!”
—from Matthew 13:1-9, 18-23
It’s almost impossible to hear this parable during these summer temperatures in San Antonio and not immediately look at the seeds that are scorched. It’s hard not to feel a bit sapped energy wise. And yet this parable is about something much more than trying to identify what kind of seed we are—or even what kind of garden we are tending. This story is really about God’s abundance.
I remember talking with my spiritual director years ago about how I felt like God had to keep hitting me between the eyes with obvious insights to get my attention. My whole focus at that point was on my shortcomings. Why wasn’t I getting the message more quickly? Why was I such a burden to God that I required so much handholding and reminding of the most basic things? Everything shifted for me when my spiritual director said, “Rather than seeing these reminders as a reprimand, why don’t you think about it as abundance? God has so many seeds to sow, far more than are even needed. What if God’s not terribly concerned about which ones take root or not? What if you trust that your job is to receive and notice the ones that are flourishing?”
This is an important way for me to view my life, because it encourages me to look for the growth and the green spots, not the scorched places. It’s not about flogging myself when I find a place where I’ve clearly fallen short. It’s not even about worrying about weeds or watering. Instead, it’s about practicing deep and abiding gratitude. Finding a patch of growth and progress even in the most difficult moments. Celebrating a conversation with a friend I haven’t heard from in a while. Taking pleasure in doing something for someone who’s having a hard week. They are small acts and gestures, but they contribute to the overall greening of my soul—and the world.
It’s often easier to focus on the scorched places and miss the real growth and fruit emerging right under our noses. A simple moment of reflection at the end of the day, naming a few graces we have seen and experienced, can open our hearts to God’s abundance. Then we can move towards growth, rather than berating ourselves for those places that are not fully blooming. My hope is that, in these summer months, you have opportunities to notice places and people who evoke gratitude in you.