“Listen! A sower went out to sow. And as he sowed, some seed fell on the path, and the birds came and ate it up. Other seeds fell on the ground, where it did not have much soil, and it sprang up quickly. And when the sun rose, it was scorched; and since it had no root, it withered away. Other seed fell among thorns, and the thorns grew up and choked it, and it yielded no grain. Other seed fell into good soil and brought forth grain, growing up and increasing and yielding thirty and sixty and a hundredfold.”

– Mark 4:3-8

 

WHICH SEEDS ARE WE

Those of us who work in the marketplace often have annual performance reviews, during which our superiors tell us how we did. Some years we do very well, and others, not so well. Some review recommendations we listen to; others we don’t. In the parable of the sower, Jesus gives us a performance review template to help us assess where we are with our faith. The seed that fell on the path is one that never really gave faith a chance. The seed on the rock is one that wants faith, but does little to nurture its faith. The one in the thorns, while faithful, allows the worries of the day to strangle its faith. The seed in the good soil nurtures and is patient with its faith, and allows worries to disappear.

“Our life’s goal is to continue to work at being present and mindful, so we can stay in the good soil.”

But are we just one of these seeds, or a mixture of all of these types of seeds? We are all affected by our circumstances and by situations we encounter. Our reactions to these circumstances affect our faith. Bad financial situations may cause us to worry. Our experiences with difficult people may cause us to give up our Christian values. When we reach a mental state where we feel we are in the good soil, situations inevitably arise that test our faith.

We all want to be the seed in the good soil, but in tough times we worry, become angered, or otherwise lose our composure. In doing so, we end up on the path, in the rocks, or among the thorns. Our life’s goal is to continue to work at being present and mindful, so we can stay in the good soil.

Donna, a successful business owner I know, told me once that she was prone to anger when confronted with a difficult person or situation. Over time, she learned to identify the triggers that affected her mood and her spirit. When this happened, she would mentally distance herself from the situation and tell herself to simply observe her surroundings, to take in information passively, while letting time and distance quiet her impulsive reactivity.

Peter, a former colleague, would pull me aside during difficult, high-stress situations and suggest the two of us go for a walk. We would head out to grab a snack while we talked about football. This was our way of creating space to prevent us from becoming reactive, which would ultimately move us farther from our goals.

We all want to be in the good soil, and we become frustrated that we aren’t there all the time. Learning to identify and deal with our triggers helps us stay on course. None of us is just one “seed” all the time, and when we find ourselves on the path, in the rocks, or among the thorns, Jesus can help us find our way back to the good soil.

Blessings, until next time,
Bruce L. Hartman

 

PARTING THOUGHTS

What situations move us from good soil?

How do we react to life’s difficult circumstances?

 

“Father, if you are willing, take this cup from me; yet not my will, but yours be done.”

– Luke [22:42]

 

CONFRONTING CHALLENGES

A young man in his early thirties, late at night in an ancient Judean garden, asks, “Are you sure this is the only way?” This was the third time during the evening the young man had returned to the garden. Each time with the same request, “Are you sure?” The fullness of his humanity exposed and somber, he was sweating to the point of bleeding. Finally relenting, he gives in to the task by saying, “Not my will, but yours.” He knew what lay ahead. Betrayal by his friends and humiliation in front of his community. A long, agonizing beating that would tear skin from his back. Followed by an arduous trek carrying his cross to a hill. Where he would finally be put to death. A gruesome task he had to accomplish to create a connected relationship for humanity with God. He was creating a flower for humankind called Easter.

How many times in our work lives are we faced with difficult choices? The choice between momentary safety and doing what’s right. While none our decisions have the drama of Jesus’s prayer in the garden, there are strong parallels. We have to tell our boss bad news and bear the burden of delivering the news. We are internally and externally coaxed to sugarcoat what we have to say. Perhaps blame someone else. Or even conceal the news. All these shortcuts will avoid that moment of having to deliver a tough message. The walk to deliver the news will seem like an eternity. Each breath and thought will hang thickly, almost choking us. But we have a choice and we have an example from the garden. We have all been in this spot.

Consider Sherron Watkins, the executive who delivered the bad news about Enron. Shortly afterward she became a pariah with the insiders at Enron. Her daily life was difficult and lonely. As time wore on and the issues she revealed came fully to light, she became a model for corporate integrity. In 2001 she was named one of Time magazine’s People of the Year.

“Not my will, but yours.”

Confronting the natural challenges in the marketplace is an everyday job. Many times tough and uneasy decisions have to be made. We are fortunate we have the example of Jesus in the garden to model. Through our daily prayers and relationship with God, we become emboldened and confident in decision making. Not fearing the temporary pain that is often associated with a tough decision, but sure in our faith that God is with us.

Blessing, until next time,
Bruce L. Hartman

 

PARTING THOUGHTS

What tough decisions do we have to make today?

Do they help our neighbor?

Are we thinking of ourselves or making the right choice?