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Genesis 3:19 b you will fight for every crumb of food from the crusty lump of clay I made you from
The soil environment is a great example of the importance of and need for community. Multiple associations between multiple species of bacteria, fungi, and plants create a place where all can thrive in a soil. Yet if all aren’t present, none thrive. Bacteria convert gaseous nitrogen into usable forms and remove waste products. Fungi weave mind-bogglingly large and complex webs between roots and soil particles for nutrient transfer and availability. Plants provide energy sources through root exudates and decay of above-ground materials. Each specific to a task, each different in placement and composition, all essential. And if one member of the community struggles, all struggle because an essential irreplaceable component isn’t being provided for another. When relationships like these occur in nature, it’s called mutualism.
Doesn’t mutualism sound similar to Paul’s description of the early church in 1 Corinthians 12:12-27? All were called. All had different roles, gifts, and positions. All were essential for this community to thrive. And not just to thrive at Corinth, but to overtake the entire world in a web of mind-bogglingly amazing love and obedience. Not just for those days, but for all days to come, including now. As a member of the Body of Christ, I long to see thriving communities, both in the soil under my feet and the people in the church. I’ve been called, equipped, and empowered for service for such a community to flourish in this place at this time (see 1 Corinthians 1:17, Hebrews 4:1, and 1 Peter 2:9).
Yet all too many times, service in my life looks like Adam’s struggle with the soil after Eden. That is, a fight for every crumb of food from the crusty lump of clay I made you from. Just like Paul, I war with knowing what I should do and what I’m actually doing (see Galatians 5:17). Or if I am doing what I should, I still battle with a right attitude in the doing. I compare this idea to that of the soil texture of a loam. The perceived “ideal” soil texture of a true loam only exists if “made” in a laboratory from 33% sand, 33% silt, and 33% clay particles. Such loams are looked for in nature but not found. Similarly, my “ideal” acts of service that I’ve “made” in the laboratory of my mind are for me, not for my Jesus. Such acts are meant to draw others to me, not for others to find Jesus. Thus, there is an ongoing battle between what I’m doing versus what He wants me to do. And all of this is because the soil of my soul needs to be rebuilt into the Image of my Jesus. Because if not, it will just keep producing thorns and thistles (see Genesis 3:17-18). The cursed ground of the soil of my soul has the natural tendency to sin, despite my best efforts otherwise. But there is hope as seen in 1 Corinthians 15:49 And just as we have borne the image of the man made of dust, we will also bear the image of the heavenly man. Jesus can and will do the very good work of transforming me from the cursed ground up and out.
He alone can do a full-blown metamorphosis of the soil of my soul. Not just in words on a page, but in focus, thought patterns, responses, choices, and identity arising from a stable and thriving humble obedience. And for this soil scientist, humble obedience is easily not my first, second, or third choice. Yet I know it is essential if I want my default to be something other than Isaiah 29:16, You have turned things around, as if the potter were the same as the clay. How can what is made say about its maker, “He didn’t make me”? How can what is formed say about the one who formed it, “He doesn’t understand what he’s doing”? I may not say those questions aloud but my choices proclaim them, independent of circumstances in my life. Circumstances don’t have to control my choices. Right choices remain right, even when circumstances change. Even best circumstances cannot produce best choices if the soil of my soul isn’t being transformed to be like my Christ Who Himself learned trusting obedience (see Hebrews 5:8).
Oh, Jesus, please transform every particle of the soil of my soul into Your Image starting now. I am dusty from and tired of trying to make things happen on my own. Please help me to see that Your plan carried out in Your way is always good. Thank You, Jesus, that You are always at work, even when I can’t see things happening.
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in case you haven’t already seen it, here’s a link to Part 1 of Cultivating Community
Written by and copyrighted to Beth Madison, Ph.D., 2022.