Digging Deep

Category: Monthly Reflection


            A farmer friend of mine has been teaching me that plowing and preparing soil for the seed is far more complicated than I imagined. Sometimes the soil gets compacted into a hard layer called a plow sole and the farmer must decide whether to raise the plow in order to keep going over the field at the same speed or to shift down and let the plow do its job in the hard places. The latter takes more time and effort but prevents the compacted soil from remaining untouched and invisible below the surface. Today many farmers have a yield monitor on the combine and yield maps reveal such soil compaction, lack of proper drainage and poor fertility.

              This is not unlike the spiritual journey. When we are open to the Spirit we travel not in a straight line to a desired goal but with sensitivity to the soil of our lives which sometimes demands that we dig deep to be free of the compacted, dark places. In the practice of reflection, meditation, or centering prayer we become alert to God’s touch and to the gentle wooing of our souls by the Spirit. We often talk about, perhaps long for “mountain top experiences” but it is by laboring to dig deeper into the darkness that we become unstuck and fertilized by grace. My farmer friend, who wishes to remain anonymous, says this better than I can: “So To Set my Plough Deep carries for me an invitation from the Great Risk Taker to slow up in the hard places and dark nights of my life allowing the Spirit to grow through my fears, my self-righteousness, my own prisons and even my certainties, so that I become deeply rooted in the Love that will not let me go.”

              Jesus told a parable about how two different builders each raised a house. The first one built quickly on sandy soil which was easy to work with and the edifice was quickly raised. The second builder dug deep into the rock bed and, with much sweaty labor, built a house with solid foundations. The first house did not survive storms but the second one stood firm.  The context of this parable was the importance of not only hearing but also doing what discipleship calls for, not only listening but working in order to grow. As I review tough places in my own faith development I know that when I was willing to let go of beliefs that were no longer authentically meaningful I experienced freedom to embrace new wisdom and insights. But before that there was a lot of digging through the compacted plow sole of inherited ideas and imparted beliefs in order to discern my own soul wisdom. And it was more than worth digging deeper.