Soul Soil


“Soil is everything.”  Thus declared my niece as our family gathered to celebrate the harvest season at Thanksgiving this year.  And she should know, as a newly minted environmental scientist, having just graduated this month from the University of Maryland.  Proud Auntie aside, I found that her statement got me thinking a lot about a very dirty subject.

Advent is a time of waiting.  And a time of preparation.  Sometimes that preparation is the waiting.  And then sometimes there are other things we can do to prepare our soil for the planting that is to come, because it is indeed, all about the soil. 

How do we prepare for the coming of the Holy One into our lives?  How do we prepare the soil of our souls not only to welcome the Divine, but to allow the Word and the Spirit to take root, grow and thrive and thus co-cultivate our best selves and build the resiliency we so desperately need in today’s world?  What synchronicity that World Soil Day, established in 2014 by the U.N. to celebrate soil and focus attention on the importance of healthy soil, happens on December 5th — each year during Advent.

As many of us do at this time (and all of us will at some time) I’ve been operating out of burnout, stress and overwhelm.  The recent harvest season found me taking a long, hard look at my soul’s soil and found it to be seriously unhealthy:  shallow, clogged by foreign matter, stripped of its nutrients, of minerals, air, and water, lacking proper drainage, and missing the living organisms that are essential to the formation of the soil itself. 

Now in the season of light, I contemplate a reset and explore the steps I need to take to prepare my soul’s soil to receive the One who is coming and the gifts that are seeking me.  Thomas Merton, 20th century American monk, writer, theologian, mystic, poet, and social activist said that every event and moment in your life plants something in your soul – a “spiritual vitality” – and that these “unnumbered seeds . . . perish and are lost, because [we] are not prepared to receive them.”

This year’s Advent Blog has focused on the extraordinary work of artists, those who make meaning out of whatever lies before them.  There’s so much artistry in the process of germination, nurturing and cultivation, but there’s also artistry in the preparation of the not-so-pretty places.  And in doing this preparation we are co-creators with the Divine in growing our best selves, which makes each and every one of us an Artist. 

So this Artist is starting the soil work.  The caring for, sifting out, breaking up, softening, and tilling; the aerating, the watering, the draining.  Allowing in that which is good and alive and digging out what no longer belongs.  And most importantly, allowing my soul’s soil to lie fallow — doing the work of stillness and rest in order to let God do God’s work of enriching and regenerating.

Listen! A farmer went out to sow his seed. As he was scattering the seed, some fell along the path, and the birds came and ate it up. Some fell on rocky places, where it did not have much soil. It sprang up quickly, because the soil was shallow. But when the sun came up, the plants were scorched, and they withered because they had no root. Other seed fell among thorns, which grew up and choked the plants, so that they did not bear grain. Still other seed fell on good soil. It came up, grew and produced a crop, some multiplying thirty, some sixty, some a hundred times.”           

Mark 4:3b-8

Photo by Gabriel Jimenez on Unsplash

Outdoor closeup on dirty hands holding a heaping pile of soil which pours out through the handler’s fingers, on a blurred background of brown with soft points of light shining.

Shared by Karla Hendrick


6 responses to “Soul Soil”

  1. Wonderful thoughts and such depth here! Never pondered the soil this way, but the art that it produces is cherished. Thank you.

  2. Thank you Karla… the challenge for us all that you wrote beautifully “doing the work of stillness and rest in order to let God do God’s work of enriching and regenerating.” May today and the days to come find me doing just that.

  3. Karla, this is such a powerful, beautiful reflection on caring for our souls. Thank you so much for these words of wisdom.

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