Tilled Souls, A Ripe Harvest, and the Opportunity of a Lifetime
At the end of each year I, like many, have the habit of reviewing the year with thanksgiving and praying over the year to come. As I prayed about 2022, I heard clearly the words from Luke 10:2, “The harvest is great, but the workers are few. So pray to the Lord who is in charge of the harvest; ask him to send more workers into his fields.” Since then, I have been asking the Lord to mobilize his church and send his workers into the harvest fields. We have lived in a global pandemic for nearly two years. Patterns of living have been disrupted and everyone has had the soil of their heart tilled by one of the three soul tillers: tension, transition, and tragedy.
Tension, transition, and tragedy are a part of everyone’s life. They also are three of the most powerful experiences that till the souls of people. Tension, transition, and tragedy often lead people to introspection, wrestling with purpose and meaning, asking big questions, and evaluating the very fabric of their lives. Rhythms of life have been disrupted and they are looking for clarity, direction, and understanding. In short, seasons of tension, transition, and tragedy are often times when people are most open to the gospel.
While I heard this years ago from a mentor, I have rarely encountered this framework in writing. Most recently, I encountered these three tillers in a book on executive leadership by Gabrielle Dolan titled Stories for Work: The Essential Guide to Business Storytelling. While I can’t vouch for the book — I haven’t finished it yet — I do love the framework of her story wheel (image below). Dolan shares about the importance and power of storytelling in leadership. She then encourages leaders to broaden their repertoire of stories to include not only triumph (what most leaders tend towards) but also stories of tension, transition, and tragedy. What I found even more insightful was how she further broke each down into three subcategories as follows.
Tension involves conflict that is driven by personal values, loyalties, or obligations. The pandemic has put pressure on people’s values and forced them to choose between different beliefs. People’s loyalties within families have felt tension and there has been massive tension around work and study obligations.
Transition involves key changes in life and can be forced, chosen, or instigated. Everyone experienced transition in the past two years. From in person to virtual. From on campus to off campus. Some by force, some by choice, all instigated by forces outside our control.
Tragedy involves what someone has experienced or viewed as a tragedy and can include tragedies to you, by you, or regret. There have been so many tragedies over the past two years from loss of jobs to loss of life. Students have experienced tragedy in friends, family, and in their own lives. Many have expressed regrets over a variety of experiences and topics in these past two years.
Tension, transition, and tragedy are upon us all. It is rare to witness a global season of solidarity in soul tilling. Yet, this is precisely where we find ourselves. Take it a step further and look at the collective tilling of the soul among college students and graduating high school students over the past two years. Unprecedented change, loss of experience, pressures by schools and families, financial challenges, isolation, distancing, unknown timelines, ever changing protocols and expectations, the list goes on and on and on. Not to mention these are young adults trying to figure out who they are, where they fit in the world, and what they are going to do. This tilling has been painful on us all. It has also created an unprecedented opportunity for the gospel.
“The pandemic has not ruined the fruit, it has ripened it.” Those are the words I heard while practicing listening prayer. It was February 2022, almost two years since the start of the pandemic. In the weeks that followed I began hearing stories that confirmed these words.
On a conference call I listened as a well known author and speaker shared about a coming revival among the current generation of college students. The harvest is ripe. I spoke with a college focused evangelist who when waiting for students to return to campuses in 2021 began outreach via TikTok and has seen thousands of young adults embrace Jesus. The harvest is ripe. I heard of four college students at the University of Michigan who expressed in a conversation that they did not know about the gospel but wanted to learn more. In a single night, some college age disciples of Jesus met with each of those four individuals one after the other and by the end of the night saw all four embrace Jesus as their Lord and Savior. The harvest is ripe. I listened to story after story of life transformation, salvations and baptism as our spring break trips returned from the south. The harvest is ripe.
The pandemic has tilled the souls of us all. And we ourselves need the gospel of Jesus in those areas of our life. I live in ever present tension around the things I value and love in this world and how the world and culture speak of those things, think about those things. I have experienced the pain of transitions — some chosen, some forced. Friends and family moving on to other ministries and states. I have witnessed friends and family die in the past two years. I have needed the gospel more in the last two years of my life than ever before. And there is nothing more motivating about talking about the gospel with others than where we are experiencing the gospel ourselves.
The pandemic has not ruined the fruit, it has ripened it. And we are facing the opportunity of a lifetime.
May you be experiencing the gospel in our own tilling.
May you be willing to enter into the tilling of those around you to share the gospel.
May you, “pray to the Lord who is in charge of the harvest; ask him to send more workers into his fields.” Luke 10:2
And may the Lord bring a wave of revival among today’s college students. Amen!