God’s Word has a lot to say about sowing and harvest. One of my favorite verses on this topic is Galatians 6:7b, “You will always harvest what you plant.” (NLT) This is a verse I often use to motivate myself to do something that may not be so fun in the present but will be beneficial in the future. As I’ve really gotten serious this year about resetting my habits and routines, (my word for this year is plant) God is showing me that before I tackle how to practically change my behavior, my heart must be dealt with- the soil in which seeds will be planted. Before we consider planting seeds of action, it matters where those seeds are being planted.
Behavior modification is the fruit – fruit need roots. Deep roots need fertile soil.
I know almost nothing about gardening or farming, but I do know that poor soil won’t produce lasting fruit. It’s like Jesus said in the parable of the sower (Matthew 16:1-23); a seed must land in the right kind of environment to yield an abundant harvest. We’ve planted our unhealthy, self-defeating, sinful actions in rich soil; in a heart that cultivates them so that they grow roots and blossom into difficult-to-kick habits (bad fruit).
We need soil that will nourish our good intentions. We need the right heart to move into right living that lasts. When we desire change, when we have goals we wish to accomplish; we first need to ask ourselves- why? Why do I want to change this area of my life? Why is this a priority?
Let’s take one of my current priorities for example: How can I be more productive?
I’ve felt overwhelmed for years; caught in a vicious cycle of doing everything and being exhausted or doing just enough to get by and feeling guilty.
I want to be intentional with my time so that I can do what’s important. I’ve started and abandoned many productivity schools of thought over the last several years, nothing really making any significant difference in my life. There certainly has been no change to the feeling that the secret to getting everything done is just beyond my reach.
As I began to pray Lord, help me to use the time you’ve given me well. Lord, show me how to enjoy my home and not begrudge the work it takes to keep it up. Lord, help me to stop spending my time on things I don’t need or want; I was confronted with the question- why? Why do I continue to do those things that “waste” my time? Why aren’t I spending more time on the things that I say I value?
There are many answers to these questions, some of which I am still discovering. But the main question was: Why do I want to be more productive?
The answer- Because I want to use the time God has given me well. Wrong! That’s the Sunday school answer. A noble answer, but definitely not an honest one for me.
Knowing the why seems obvious and simple, however we are rarely honest with ourselves. We may consider why something is generally beneficial, but we seldom examine our personal reasons- which are the ones that really matter.
My real answer? Because what I do is who I am. If I do nothing, I am nothing.
I say that I know my worth is not found in how much I can do or how well I do something. But when I looked at the fruit of my efforts to be more productive, yes I saw a cleaner house and a more organized day-planner, but I also saw a whole lot of shame when things didn’t get done and a whole lot of pride when they did. Shame is not a great motivator. Shame says, “Nothing I do will ever be enough, so why bother?” If I’m planting my productivity seeds in that soil, they will be doomed for failure. I see now why every time my schedule would change or my abilities were limited, the system I had put in place would implode and with it would go my resolve to be more productive.
As Christians, we know that God wants our hearts, but when it really comes down to it, we barely look at what's in there. If we're honest, it's a lot easier to focus on bending our will by following a three step how-to than it is to do the labor of jack-hammering a hardened heart; a heart lead by fear and shame, a heart made tough to hide insecurity. It is easier to focus on tips and tricks than it is to pull up the weeds of half-truths that we've let grow unchecked by the absolute truth of God's Word.
I’m still in the process of untangling this mess of wrong motives. And that’s okay.
Let go of the sense of urgency to fix your issues long enough to figure out what the issues actually are.
We are obsessed in our culture with self-help, Instagram-able quotes, and tweet-worthy nuggets of wisdom. But none of this will ever bring transformation because it does not address the malady of our heart. The Gospel isn’t about behavior modification. It’s about a sick heart being made well. The work of the Holy Spirit is not a shallow and transient work; it is a deep and lasting work within us. Only when we see what’s in our heart can we cry out to the Lord for his mercy and grace to help us. Only then can we recognize that we cannot possibly attain what we really want in our own strength.
Ask the Lord to show you what is in your heart. He will certainly answer. He wants to heal your heart.
Scripture for Study, Reflection, and Prayer
Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a right and steadfast spirit within me. Do not cast me away from Your presence and do not take Your Holy Spirit from me. Restore to me the joy of Your salvation and sustain me with a willing spirit. Psalm 51:10-12 (AMP)
I said, ‘Plant the good seeds of righteousness, and you will harvest a crop of love. Plow up the hard ground of your hearts, for now is the time to seek the Lord, that he may come and shower righteousness upon you.’ But you have cultivated wickedness and harvested a thriving crop of sins. You have eaten the fruit of lies, trusting in your military might, believing that great armies could make your nation safe. Hosea 10:12-13 (NLT)
I pray that from his glorious, unlimited resources he will empower you with inner strength through his Spirit. Then Christ will make his home in your hearts as you trust in him. Your roots will grow down into God’s love and keep you strong. Ephesians 3:16-18 (NLT)