“YOU’VE GOT TO SCATTER THE SEED, MATE…”
Last week I released my third demo for the “Fifty Songs” project, “Humble Us, Oh Lord.”
When we first introduced this song at my church, I worried that it was too wordy to be a good worship song. After trying it out with the congregation a few times, I decided to chuck it, thinking it maybe wasn’t the most helpful tune for worship. You win some and you lose some, I figured. And I’ve always held that songwriting and creativity should serve the church, not the songwriter.
A couple months later my buddy Clint says, “Hey man we’re playing your song Sunday morning!” Clint leads worship for another church in our network, and we’ve done some co-writing and song sharing over time. I hadn’t told him that I quit playing the song, but was excited to see someone reviving it. The week they introduced the song, I got some nice texts and emails from friends. A couple of the pastors told me that it had been a really meaningful song for the congregation. Eventually it became a regular song in their worship rotation.
All this after I’d decided to toss it out.
I’ve heard stories of temperamental writers out there. Apparently when Bruce Springsteen first heard the mastered version of “Born to Run,” he tore the record off the player, tossed it out the window, and said it was garbage. I also heard a tale from Matt Redman that he didn’t think “10,000 Reasons” was a great song, but his producer convinced him to record it. Dave Grohl once said in an interview that the Foo Fighters didn’t realize that “Everlong” was such a good song until it started getting wildly popular. Apparently a whole lot of songs have nearly ended up in the garbage bin.
Artists can be a temperamental bunch. It’s safe to say that we lose any sense of objectivity quickly, if we ever had it to begin with. We have a tendency to place way too much stock in the opinion of other people, and second-guess ourselves ‘round the clock. And I wonder if there’s a greater truth in that, that we all have a hard time being objective about our lives, our goals, our actions, our accomplishments? Having solid people around us to help us stay grounded and objective seems vital.
I spent some time in England in my early twenties. I had a vicar there who was also named Nick. I didn’t realize it at the time, but Nick was one of the best mentors and spiritual directors I’ve ever had.
One day we were talking about my plan in life. I was trying to navigate some big decisions about my future. I don’t remember the exact details of the conversation, but I’ll never forget Nick’s response. I can still remember his words, his expression and his strong British accent:
“You’ve got to scatter the seed, mate.”
He went on to tell me about this story Jesus told about a farmer planting seeds. The farmer scatters a bunch of seeds all over the place, but only a fourth if them grow into maturity. The others fall into poor soil, or fall on the road or in the weeds. They never grow into plants. And we could point out the fact that this farmer needs a few lessons in agriculture, but that’d be to miss Jesus’ point. The point, Nick said, is that while we’re busy working and living and “scattering seeds” everywhere, some of it will flourish and some of it just won’t. We have to be okay with that. We want to know for sure that our plans are going to succeed, but that’s just not possible. So we play it safe, play our cards close to the chest.
“Yeah, I know, it’s bad theology,” I told Nick.
“It’s not just bad theology, it’s bad living, mate!” Nick said with a smile.
I’d never heard the parable used for that application, but over time I’ve seen the truth behind the wisdom. Our job is scattering seeds. But we can’t make them grow, that’s God’s job. And no one can predict which of their “seeds” is going to be a success or failure. We don’t get to dictate which seeds grow and which don’t, the speed of growth, or the conditions.
May we continually give up the desire to control how the seeds in our life grow. May we continue to faithfully scatter seeds, wait patiently, and trust God with the growth process. May He become more, and we become less.