I remember an old Red Skelton routine in which he imitated a stumbling drunk trying to walk a razor-straight line during a 9.5 earthquake. Skelton’s inebriated man negotiated from point A to point B with aplomb while everything around him was in total upheaval.
Is there an elixir-free way to flourish despite the upheaval of perilous times?
Parable of the sower
The Parable of the Sower (Matthew 13:3-9) teaches us how to reach our potential despite life’s tectonic shifts.
In the parable, a sower tossed identical seeds over four different soils (Matthew 13:3). Some seeds "fell by the way side," devoured by birds (13:4). Other seeds fell "in stony places," but lacking deep roots, sprang up and withered in the sun (13:5-6). A third group "fell among thorns" which "choked them" after taking root (13:7). The fourth group "fell into good ground," taking root and bringing forth a varying abundance of fruit (13:8).
Each of the differing soils represent our receptivity to God’s will and word. Note the seeds were identical, yet flourished only in receptive soil. Notably, even the seeds which flourished were subject to the same fickle weather of storm and shadow.
Jesus likens the first seeds and soil to those who hear the gospel but allow the wayside of the wicked world to "catch away" that which was sown (Matthew 13:19). The second group represent those who receive the gospel with joy but allow trials or persecution to offend them (13:20-21). The third group represent those who hear the word but allow thorny riches and the deceit of the world to choke their tender testimonies (13:22).
The seed sown in "good ground" represents those who hear, understand and obey the word, bringing forth a varying yield of fruit in abundance (Matthew 13:23).
Yielding to God
As we yield our hearts to God, the roots of our character grow deep in selfless soil. This rich environment powers our potential despite the harsh conditions of life’s wind and weather.
Even rocky soil can be plowed and improved to yield fruit, but the best environment is the one free of excess thorns that choke our character and pillage our potential.
In the process of weeding out our individual thorns, disciples of Jesus Christ may well ask, "Do I permit pride, selfishness or diversion to choke the tender roots of my potential?"
Like the seeds in the parable, we are sometimes scattered into less than ideal soil — even environments we did not choose. No matter our initial circumstance in life, we are still free to choose our attitude and allegiance. That freedom may well determine our upgrade to richer spiritual ground.
In the Book of Mormon, another testament of Jesus Christ, the prophet Lehi declared, "Wherefore men...are free to choose liberty and eternal life, through the great mediator of all men, or to choose captivity and death, according to the captivity and power of the devil..." (2 Nephi 2:27).
The richest soil
Perhaps the richest environment is the charitable heart. Godly charity allows deep roots in "good soil" because it neither demands self-promotion nor exults in the shame of the world. While some seek the anemic soil of riches, recognition or selfishness, the charitable heart graduates from seed to sower. Such a graduate is willing to till his neighbor’s unreceptive fields in order to soften hearts.
In this way, more of God’s children flourish to their potential.
No matter our environment, we are all God’s children. Whether we yield fruit in abundance is a matter of our individual receptivity to God. Our willingness to change the landscape one seed, one heart at a time determines the harvest.
William Monahan graduated from BYU law school. An Air Force veteran and former Phoenix stake president, he teaches law and serves as a high councilor for QC Chandler Heights Stake. William Monahan begins service July 2012 as a mission president.