One of my favorite parables in the Bible is the Parable of the Sower. I’m not sure why this is my favorite, but I find myself coming back to it over and over again. It is probably because this parable talks about heart issues, and I know this is an area where I need to work in my own life.

“Then he told them many things in parables, saying: ‘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. Still other seed fell on good soil, where it produced a crop—a hundred, sixty or thirty times what was sown. Whoever has ears, let them hear’” (Matthew 13:3-9).

Jesus goes on to give us an explanation of the parable. The farmer is God at work in those who scatter the seeds of the Kingdom. The seed represents the Truth of the Bible—the Gospel message. The four types of soil on which the seeds land represent a condition of our hearts and how receptive we are to the Gospel.

The hard path represents a heart not ready to hear the Truth. The enemy comes along and takes the Truth away. The rocky soil represents a heart that does not allow roots to grow deep and so when persecution and difficulties come, the person falls away from the truth. The soil with thorns represents soil that takes root of the Truth, but the worries of life and the deceitfulness of wealth come and choke out the growth. Distractions can kill off the work God is trying to do in our lives.

Finally, there is good soil, which reproduces what has been sown.

Every time I read this parable, I am inspired to be the good soil. I want the type of life that produces 30, 60 or 100 times what has been poured into me. I want my life to count for something. I have a deep desire to produce.

And one thing I have learned through the years is that you can allow God to change your soil.

How do you “soften” your soil? I believe it happens as you read your Bible, talk with others about God, pray, go to church and put yourself around other believers in Jesus.

To allow God to work on your soil, you must be vulnerable and open enough to allow Him into areas that need His Truth and grace.

At one point in my life, I was very rocky soil. But I started hanging around other believers, and those people began to help pick rocks out of my soil. Some of the rocks in our soil are too big for us to pull out on our own.

Your soil (or the condition of your heart) determines if you are going to grow or not. This parable shows us, through a basic agricultural practice, that we must allow roots to grow down deep if we want to see growth outwardly.

The parable is a good picture that shows how God works in our lives, too. We need inward growth and inward healing if we want to see outward growth. We see this in plants, but we also see God working inwardly in us to produce an outward result.

For many of us, we have some damage done inwardly—our roots are damaged—or we have some rocks in our soil that are getting in the way of God growing us inwardly.

Maybe it’s past abuse that we need to identify and deal with. Maybe it’s some past family issues that we have left buried for years. Many times, God wants to dig these up and remove them from our soil so we can be healthier and more productive. Maybe there are some weeds arounds us, such as chasing money, pornography or other addictions, that are choking the life out of our own personal growth.

Addressing the quality of our soil and working with others to weed and till it is what softens the heart to Truth.

This work sounds easy until life hurts us. When life hurts, we want to close our hearts off to the world, then a hardening happens. We do not want to get hurt again, but God wants to speak to those hurt places.

Humble yourself and let God’s grace in. Sit and soak in it, and not just on the surface levels. Let God’s grace sink into those areas you keep hidden and closed off.

Maybe you need to let some people come around you and help remove some rocks in your soil—those hard parts that are keeping you from growing. Maybe you need to remove some thorns or weeds that are choking your growth and healing.

As spring approaches, let the Gardener of your soul guide you in preparing your soil for growth as He works from the inside to produce an outward harvest.

Dave Spruell leads the Support & Recovery Ministry at Southeast Christian Church.