I am surprised by a client’s property that has multiple soil types within the hundred acre site. I think about the earth under foot, about the microbes and all that is invisible to us that make the miracle of soil a thing that is able to sustain life.
There is wonder and amazement when I think about the soils of the earth. There are desert sands, rich bogs, nutrient filled clay, mysteriously dark topsoil, stagnant swamps, and frozen tundra, just to name a few.
I think about my own interior landscape and its regions of soils, a topography that is as vast and undulating as that of the earth. The analogies and parables about soil are many, familiar, and worn. We have heard the expression about the Good Earth, barren soil, and the four soils of the sower in the Bible. There is another soil condition that is rarely considered when drawing on spirituality. It occurs from excessive and recurring pressure. Where all that is good and viable is pushed down and dies. It is called compaction.
Compaction is a condition farmers do their utmost to avoid, but can result if they do not attend to their fields properly. By working the fields too soon in the spring when the soil is wet, too frozen, or too “tender” to be tilled, the weight of the machinery compresses the soil below the surface. Of all agricultural situations, this is the most damaging to sustainability. Water cannot penetrate the compressed soil, nor plant roots, nor nutrients. The field has lost its tilth, which is the ability to support plant life. The resulting crop yields are minimal and resolving the problem of compaction is challenging. The farmer, as always, must forego expediency and remain attentive to the needs of the earth for it to be fruitful.
When soil becomes severely compacted it can no longer sustain life. It is no longer friable. The microbes and worms, and all the bacterium and earth-works that enliven and sustain the soil are no longer able to penetrate it. Think of an old dirt driveway where not even weeds or fungi can survive, it is beyond being a waste land, it is dead. This is a parched and barren piece of earth that no amount of tilling or amending with fertilizers can restore to support life. The very essence of its structure, at a molecular level, is beyond recovery. It can only be dug out, ground up, and tossed aside.
This analogy holds true for many individuals whose hearts have hardened. Their interior soil that should grow loving relationships has been destroyed. On their own without God, no amount of tilling and working will bring their hearts back to His intended purpose for it. Their hearts are impenetrable to all that is good, though goodness surrounds it on all sides.
God can still enter a hardened, compacted heart with slow and gentle persistence. Think of rain. A downpour on compacted soil will do nothing except run-off and dampen only the top few millimeters. Puddles form on the hard resistant surface and evaporate having never reached the interior.
A delicate persistent rain on compacted soil, impenetrable as it may be, as destroyed and incapable of responding to its true nature, this soothing incessant rain will penetrate. Gentle rain like truth sinks in and softens slowly. Once a heart is softened like the soil, God can amend.