I recently read the book Conversation Peace by Mary A. Kassian. My purpose for picking up this book is to take a hard look at the roots of my communication and to identify areas where I can change to improve future relationships or even possibly find ways to open up reconciliation and resolution with my last church. In the book she gives some very practical sections about how to change and tools that can be used to implement change. Those sections hold the power to change if we want to implement them and see a real difference in our communication. The key there is how much effort we want to put into the process and if we truly desire to change our hearts, souls, and minds and let God transform us. The only real truth we will find in this life is God’s word and if we allow it to work in hearts transformation will occur and will lead us to be different people.
This section of the book on the leaves/fruit, roots, and soil was especially powerful to me as it spoke directly to what I have seen in my own life, that the soil my roots are planted in affect the roots and therefore the leaves/fruit. Because my life had a lot of unhealthy soil (beliefs) in it, my roots (attitudes), and leaves (outward language and behavior) was also unhealthy. I desperately needed to change the soil and was trying to but my roots were rotting and I needed a deep work that only God and the Holy Spirit could perform in my life. By God’s grace and in his timing I found believers who were willing and able to walk this course with me, but my heart grieves over how these truths are not well known and understood by leaders in our churches. Our churches and ministries are focusing on the roots and the leaves/fruit but we really need to focus on the most important factor – changing the soil. Once it was clear to me that I was living with the soil of deceit and that some of the teachings I was under added to that I was able to identify that I needed to find the pure soil of truth and once planted in that change happened very quickly and deeply.
Our words and behavior are like the leaves and fruit of a plant. They are above the surface and can be observed. Our attitudes and thoughts are hidden like the root of a plant. Some roots of bad speech are envy, pride, malice, arrogance, bitterness, and lack of self-control. But just as in the case of the temperate rain forest, there is a third factor that affects the plant – and it is the most important factor: the soil. The soil represents our deepest beliefs and values. (page 52)
According to Scripture, two types of soil can exist in the human heart: the pure soil of truth and the contaminated soil of deceit. According to Jeremiah 17:9, the predominant type is deceit: “The heart is deceitful above all things…” But what exactly does that mean? What is deceit? The dictionary defines deceit as “the concealment or perversion of truth for the purpose of misleading.” The Bible gives additional information. It explains that the essence of deceit is failing to acknowledge God (Jer. 9:3,6). The word acknowledge means “to assent to the truth or claims of.” When I acknowledge God, I assent – I agree – with his truth and his claims. If I disagree with his truth and his claims, the bible says that I am living in deceit. Deceit is a condition of the heart that occurs whenever God’s truth is concealed, perverted, or denied. A deceitful heart fails to acknowledge God. It does not believe God’s words, value God’s ways, think God’s thoughts, or adopt the same attitude that God has. Our hearts are misled – deceived – whenever we are out of line with God. The Bible clearly indicates that the soil of deceit is responsible for the evil that shows up in what we say. Deceit allows evil in all its various forms (such as envy, pride, malice, and bitterness) to take root in our hearts. These attitudes and thoughts then sprout into faulty words. Paul described it like this: “Their tongues practice deceit. The poison of vipers in on their lips. Their mouths are full of cursing …ruin and misery mark their ways, and the way of peace they do not know” (Rom. 3:13-14, 16-17). If we are lacking peace in our interpersonal communication, we would be well advised to examine the soil of our hearts. Chances are that our words are anchored in contaminated soil. (page 53)
Curing a plant of root rot therefore requires more than just treating the leaves, stems, and roots. It requires that the soil be removed and replaced. You can’t really beat the disease without changing the soil in which the plant is grounded. It’s the same way with us. We can try to change our negative words and behaviors-or even try to uproot wrong attitudes and thoughts-but we can’t really beat the disease until we change the false beliefs and values deep in the soil of our hearts. And for that we need God’s help. Thankfully, he does not give up on us or discard us as I did with that African violet. No. He is committed to helping us purify our hearts. (page 58)
The first part of the cleanup plan is confessing our sin – owning up to the fact that contamination exists. The second part is renouncing our sin. To renounce means “to cast off or reject” – renouncing means “digging the contamination out.” In the previous chapter we learned that the Bible says there are two types of soil: the pure soil of truth and the tainted soil of deceit. The plan for cleanup means that we dig out the contamination of deceit, throw it away, and fill our garden with the purity of God’s truth. It means that we get rid of sinful thoughts and actions and begin to think and live as God instructs us to. (page 62)
Can you see places where your soil is the soil of deceit instead of the pure soil of truth? If you have come out of an unhealthy church situation there is almost certainly some deceit in there. Take the first steps toward curing your root rot, change your soil. Go to God’s truth, confess any sin that has not been dealt with and turn from it and toward God. The truth, God’s pure soil of truth, will set you free!