In today’s Gospel reading Jesus compares his ministry to a farmer planting seeds. “A sower went out to sow,” he says. “And as he sowed, some seed fell on the path, and birds came and ate it up. Some fell on rocky ground, where it had little soil. It sprang up at once because the soil was not deep, and when the sun rose it was scorched, and it withered for lack of roots. Some seed fell among thorns, and the thorns grew up and choked it. “But some seed fell on rich soil, and produced fruit, a hundred or sixty or thirtyfold. Whoever has ears ought to hear.”When I was younger, I used to think this parable described different types of people. Some are hard and unyielding to Jesus’ teaching, other embrace it quickly but superficially and lose heart when difficulties arise. Others are done in by other interests, and can’t resist the thorns and weeds. Still others welcome Jesus’ teaching, and discover rich and rewarding lives. Maybe all that’s true; maybe some people are as the parable describes. But what I think now, at least for myself, is that I have been every type of soil at different times of my life. I have resisted God, I have feigned interest but lacked commitment, I have gotten distracted for months or years, and I have had wonderful, rewarding and exciting experiences of grace. Sometimes I’ll be each of these “soils” in a single week!Are we open, accepting and eager to grow? Or are we hanging on to other interests and priorities in such a way that Jesus’ words cannot fully take root in our lives?So maybe the point of this parable is not to assign identities to ourselves and others, but to identify where we are in our relationship with God. Are we open, accepting and eager to grow? Or are we hanging on to other interests and priorities in such a way that Jesus’ words cannot fully take root in our lives? If we are not growing spiritually, then maybe our own inner gardens need some tending.The good news is that God is not like me — planting a few seeds and then ignoring his crop until it is too late. God is eager to help us grow, to help us soften the hard places in our lives, remove the rocks that obstruct us, and untangle the messes that we get ourselves into. The promise? Lives that will bear fruit, lives that produce satisfaction and benefits far beyond our imaginations. God wants us to keep growing. No matter how old or young we are, the promise is that we can always experience the thrill of growing stronger, wiser and more fruitful.Bill Peatman writes from Napa. He may be reached at [email protected]. This week’s Liturgical Calendar is on Page 11.