A Field of Plastic
A twentieth-first Century addition to the Parable of the Sower (Matt. 13:1-30)
Ventura County is known for its strawberries. Because of their size and flavor, they are highly praised and are shipped all over the world. The farmers put a lot of time and effort into the fields to insure that quality and abundance come out of it. Some of the preparations for the new crop can be quite elaborate.
At the end of each season, the fields are plowed under and leveled off. Shortly after that, the soil is sprayed with a very caustic chemical called Va-Pamp. The entire field is then covered over and sealed in heavy clear plastic. Even the edges of the plastic are taped together to ensure an air-tight seam. Sometimes 40 or more acres at a time are encased given an eerie appearance of a frozen lake at the tail-end of summer.
The sun penetrates the plastic causing a chemical reaction which forms a toxic gas. This gas then permeates to a foot or more sterilizing the soil as it goes. This stuff kills everything; it kills weeds, it kills the seeds of weeds, nothing escapes! The gas that forms is so potent that it can form air bubbles in the plastic some three feet high and twenty feet wide. If you should cut one of these open, the escaping gas would knock you to the ground if not kill you. It’s real nasty stuff!
As good as it kills the weeds, it also kills equally well the remaining good plants such as strawberries from the past season. Tomatoes, broccoli, peas, lettuce or any other crop from past seasons are all wiped out leaving nothing to compete with future plantings.
You may not realize it, but this has great spiritual implications! It presents an illustration to those beset by what is first believed to be the vile hand of Satan, but in fact, it may be Satan unknowingly and unwillingly doing a work of God. You may think this an odd thing to say or maybe even blasphemy. To quote Dr. Bud Denner, the best bible teacher I have ever met, “Satan is not an adversary of God, because God has no adversaries. He is a tool used by God.” “Or a God,” To quote Ern Baster, “who is more interested in our character than our comfort.” I know He is a God who is more concerned about our personal growth than the results of our ministries. He would rather our ministries be spawned from our relationship with Him, rather than our relationship with Him coming through our Ministry. When this happens, there are some serious weeds developing from once was good fruit. It would be so frustrating to a farmer if tomatoes started to sprout where he had just planted strawberries.
Unplanted seedlings from last year’s crop are weeds disrupting what the Lord is doing today. Just as pride, arrogance and lust can be weeds to the soul, so can expectations based on the past be detrimental to what the Lord is doing now! To keep this from happening, we must continue to be so personally yoked to the Lord that when He changes direction, even a little bit, we can move with Him and not get our necks chaffed.
If He meets a lot of resistance He may have to remove what is in His way. To accomplish this, He may allow our minds or souls to be sprayed with caustic chemicals like failure, humiliation and frustration. Then our whole personality, containing our feelings and emotions is covered over in a thick layer of divine silence that completely seals in all that we don’t want, and keeps out anything helpful. What can feel like a heavy depression, may be in fact, a Spiritual reaction taking place which reaches deep down attacking everything we are.
Unfortunately, what goes first is our hopes and dreams, followed by our strength and encouragement. Soon, we even question our very faith! Remember, this stuff attacks everything, including self-reliance, self-sufficiency and our own self-determination. Traits the world deems as positive fruit, but what our Lord sees as obstacles. Fortunately, the old dreaded weeds of lust of the flesh, and the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life, are also struck down. (John 16: 20) It’s hard to be prideful or arrogant when you are depressed from your self-reliance being shot off. It may get to a point when you just feel numb.
This thick plastic layer of depression and helplessness can make us social outcasts. We cry out for help, but for whatever reason, no one can seem to relate to us. Though they may earnestly try, they can’t see in to understand what we are going through. They may ask, “Why are you letting this get to you?” What a miserable place to be! And woe to those helpful ones who would take a knife to our bubbles to cut us free! You may even scream out in frustration. “It doesn’t make any sense to feel so bad! I am a Christian for God’s sake! Why isn’t He doing something about this? Why is He so silent? Doesn’t He hear us? Are we totally alone in this? What is He doing? Is He doing anything at all? We may quote all kinds of scripture, pray all kinds of prayers, but nothing penetrates this thick plastic. Time slows to a crawl. Eventually we will hear a tiny little voice in the back ground. “Trust Me.” “What?” “Trust Me.” “Trust You? Yes, I trust You, but why is this happening? Can’t you see everything is crashing down?” We may even get the fun one we all like to hear at these times, “I’m doing a work in you.” “What work? I can’t see anything!” “Just relax in my strength and trust in Me.” When we finally realize we have no choice in the matter, we surrender to the trial. It is only then that we can see clearly that it’s just a season and the season will come to an end. And, when we finally give up struggling, His voice gets louder. “Trust in me and you will eventually see marvelous fruit.” Though we may not be able to see it, the chemicals have done their job and are dissipating. The plastic is still on our field but things are calming down as we let God be God.
Eventually the plastic is removed and the ground airs out. The layer of depression lifts, and is replaced with humbleness, which brings faith, hope, and joy. The Lord will now be able to plant any new crop of His choosing free from weeds, both good and bad.
So when your life gets shot down when you haven’t done anything wrong. Or when a depression that doesn’t make any sense comes over you and you are helpless to find a cause. When you have tried to pray it through, or deliver it out. When you have received so much counseling that you are turning blue. When you find that even screaming at God just doesn’t work, then thwart the devil’s hand by making good use of it. Let it glean deep down into your soul killing off the weeds of the flesh and the weeds of self. Let it have the leftover fruit from past harvest: after all old manna just breeds worms. (Exod. 16:20)
We Christians tend to give the devil so much credit when things go wrong. No, we should not take him lightly, but there are times when he is merely a tool in the hand of a highly skilled and determined Mechanic, or in this case, a farmer who is intent on bringing out the very best in a fertile piece of land. After all, we are His garden are we not?