|This photo captures the dynamic of our Brotherhood exactly|
I tried a few versions on my wife for a test run, and although she was quite supportive, said, “Why don’t you just tell a story and make it relevant?” In 6 seconds, she rendered my several hours of study, preparation, writing and thought that I had done so far virtually useless. Of course, she was absolutely right, like always, and knowing that people tend to fall asleep everyday after hearing me talk for even just a few minutes (its kind of my job) it seemed like a much better option.
So, rather than run the risk of putting everyone into a coma in sacrament meeting, I had to go another route. It was just then that I realized that the true message of the parable had played out very distinctly in the life of someone close to me. After reading the parable over and over and thinking of what message would be really relevant to us today it was quite clear that I had to tell one of the best stories that I have ever heard. Its a story of my little brother.
The basics of the parable are this: A sowers seeds land in three different types of ground or soil. The seeds represent the gospel, or the words of God. The soil types represent the receptivity of our hearts to the gospel. The three types of ground are stony, thorny, or finally fertile receptive soil.
The story Ill try to tell is how this soil can change, it changes over time, with effort, desire, a plow, and poop. because this is our blog, and not sacrament meeting, I will use the word poop, and not manure, although manure is probably more accurate. But the idea is that we are not cursed to keep the soil of our hearts permanently, we can change.
My brothers and I grew up beating each other up, fighting, competing, fighting, beating each other up, teasing each other, fighting, and then teasing each other. We were relentless. Im the oldest brother, but I’m also the best looking, strongest, and smartest, but so were the other three.
There was always a lot of pressure to beat the other guy, or one up the other guy, or not let the other guy show you up. It wasn’t just in sports, but spilled over into all other aspects of life. The oldest three brothers eventually graduated high school, and went on missions, just like we had learned were supposed to do, the youngest, though, was always a little different. Being the youngest, and a little different than us, he, unfortunately, took the brunt of the teasing, razzing, and ridicule from the older brothers. We were horrible. I was horrible. I was an idiot, a jerk, and everything I wasn’t supposed to be as a big brother. In the context of the parable, I did nothing but sit there and throw rocks into my little brother’s soil. Im sure he just wanted to fit in, be a part of us, be like us, and all the things little brothers want to be. But, I didn’t help out. In fact, I did just the opposite.
Im sure that he felt tremendous pressure to graduate and do just like we did, and go on a mission, Im sure he felt that way from everyone around him, whether real or imagined. Whether purposefully or not. It was just the way it was. But, the fact is, he hadn’t developed a testimony of his own yet, and was honest enough with himself to realize it. He went into the MTC and came home after a couple weeks. I cant even imagine the way he must have felt. Even though he was an amazing kid, he felt alone. His soil was stony. Mostly because of the rocks that yours truly had sent his way.
But, all of the stupid stuff I did, to make him feel the way he did, makes his story all the more amazing.
Fast forward several years, its 2011, and he’s now married, and has three amazing little girls. but his heart was still stony. He’s going to church, he doing the right things, he’s an amazing father, but his heart was still in the stony phase.
This is where it gets fun. As I hope you can see in the picture above, my little brother is the happy, goofy, life of the party, story-telling-est guy you will ever meet, so I will use the words he used to describe what happened next.
He said that he was tired of pretending, tired of going to church just because, and that if he was going to put in the effort, he needed to know for himself, really, that it was worth it. If it was true. And if so, he had to give it his all, not just show up.
He tells the story of him praying like he had never done before, he prayed with as much effort and heart as he could muster and said that he told God that he had an ultimatum for him, that He had one shot. One. One chance to give him and answer, and that it was going to be tonight. My little brother proceeded to tell our Father in Heaven what was going to happen. He made his demands. For his part, he would go to the general priesthood session, alone, take notes, pay attention, give it his 100% effort. In turn, he demanded that Heavenly Father tell him, without a doubt, no room for error or question that is was true. He needed to be hit across the head with an answer though, no room for doubt. He said that because he had never really felt the spirit before, that it had to be obvious. (he has since said, that knowing what he does now of Heavenly Father, he would never talk to him like that)
So, he went to the priesthood session, and the first speaker? Elder Holland. Yep. the talk? “We are all Enlisted” Yep. If there were ever a talk designed to smack you across the face this was it. He said that the Spirit didn’t whisper anything to his heart, It yelled at him like a spitting red faced drill sergeant, then put him in a headlock, and then body slammed him.
He said he had learned that night the true meaning of “Ask and ye shall receive”.
So his heart was changed right? he lived happily ever after? not quite. He had just begun.
Stony ground is not made fertile overnight.
This is where the poop comes into the story. Lots and lots of poop. Knee deep poop, the really stinky kind.
In the context of the parable, we need to realize that the crap we wade through in our lives is not actual crap, but nutritious fertilizer that is changing our stony hardened ground, into the fertile receptive soil that the sower can use to grow his seeds. Sometimes the more manure, the better the plant that grows.
My little brother was just getting started. He now had 4 beautiful little girls who adore him. The last two had some health difficulties when they were just babies. Both little girls had mystery undiagnosable medical issues. The youngest little girl especially, Lexi. She would stop breathing for no apparent reason, and turn blue. She also had difficulty eating, she couldn’t hold food down, and she would aspirate and cough whenever she tried. She eventually needed a feeding tube to be placed so that she could get some sort of nutrition.
Because of her breathing problems, My brother and his wife would take turns staying up all night watching her every breath,watching her little chest rise and fall, just waiting for her to stop breathing. It was exhausting.
The doctors and nurses had no answers. They didn’t know what to tell them. The only thing they could come up with was to teach them CPR, can you imagine? “Sorry sir, we have no idea whats wrong with your daughter, but when she stops breathing and is dying, this is what you can do….But this ended up being a skill that they had to use multiple times after she would stop breathing.
One early morning my brother was on Lexi duty, and decided to take her out into the living room so his wife could sleep. He says that a lot of things were going through his mind at that point, and he was pleading with our Heavenly Father for help. He then said he had his moment. His moment of complete clarity. His moment when he was able to see things as he was meant to see them. He said his mind opened up and he was able to perceive what the plan was for him and his family. He said in that moment of clarity, he saw that he had done everything to help Lexi, but the most important. He was to use the priesthood of God and to give her a blessing, not just any blessing, but a blessing to heal her. Now, this really shocked him, as she had received many blessings up to this point, from great men, but still had her medical problems. But, the feeling came again to him, that right there, right then, He, Lexi’s father, needed to give her a blessing and heal her. So, he knelt down, put his hands on that little 3 month old girl’s head, and started to speak. When he described that blessing, he said his lips were moving, but the words weren’t his, his thoughts weren’t his, he just sat there in awe as a power came over him, and through him, and the words that did come out of his mouth commanded that little girl to be completely healed.
It took faith, but they pulled the tube out of her nose, cancelled all other doctor’s appointments, and Lexi has never had another problem again.
She is now a happy, healthy little 2 year old girl and you would never know that she had come so close to dying on so many occasions.
Since that night, and other experiences since, my brother, my little brother, has changed the soil in his heart completely. He is a real follower of Christ. The seeds the Savior sowed have now taken root, and through him, a lot of people in his family, and all around him, including me, the big brother, have benefitted immensely from his testimony. I look up to him, and love him. I see him a lot differently than I used to. I can see, in retrospect, that the Lord was preparing him all along to to great things, and, when the time was right, and when he turned his heart to the Lord, it changed.
Our stony soil does not turn into prepared, fertile soil overnight, it needs to be chopped up, churned, tilled, and sometimes, a lot of crap has to be heaped on it. If we do all this, we will be prepared for the Sower, our Savior.
Through all of this, I have learned from my little brother how to better follow, and love, my Big Brother.
Four Brothers’ Prayer
On bended knee, we turn to Thee,
and offer up our soil,
For His good seed, we’ll nourish, feed,
And labor, sweat and toil,
And from His living water’s well,
and light from Thine own Son,
Our plant gains root, and grows, and swells
Towards Him- the chosen One.