Then he said, “You don’t get the koan either, do you? And if you don’t get this one, you won’t get any of them.
“The gardener plants the idea. When the idea comes to someone who’s as dense as asphalt, they hear it but the Resistance takes it away before it has any chance of sinking in. When the idea lands in gravel it falls between the cracks, as if it’s been readily absorbed, but nothing takes root. As soon as trouble comes or the idea meets opposition, it’s abandoned. When the idea is planted in the weeds, it takes root. But because of so many other worries, concerns for making money, and always wanting first this, then that, the idea never comes to anything. But when the idea finds good soil, it is heard and lived, and that’s when it bears fruit, increasing the opportunity to spread it, thirty, sixty, or even a hundred times.”
As Seth Godin says, an idea can be a terrific idea, but if it can’t spread, it’s like no one ever had it.
And there are lots of factors that keep great ideas from spreading. Jesus names three:
- Starting with your own resistance. You have a great idea. You’re in love with the idea. It’s the greatest thing since sliced bread. So why don’t you do anything about it? Sure, you run it by a couple people. But that’s it. A year later, you can hardly remember what it was. Because as much as you’re in love with the idea, somewhere in the back of your mind is the fear that if you try it, it won’t work. You’ll be a failure. People might laugh at you. Did that friend really think it was a great idea, or was she just saying that the way people nod in agreement to move on? You start second-guessing. In the end you just never do anything about it.
- The next obstacle is other people’s resistance. A friend really does laugh at you and tell you it’s a dumb idea. A spouse tells you you’re overreacting, or worse, crazy. So you believe them and just drop it. Like hitting the first bump in the road or catching your first snag.
- Then there are all the other things vying for your attention. And how are you going to make a living and support your family until your idea starts to pay off? Or will it ever pay the bills? And then there’s a great new sit-com on TV starting this week, and you want to see who’s going to win America’s Got Talent, and your friend calls and invites you to play a round of golf (or whatever game it is you play that takes all day). And before you know it, that lovely idea is buried in the back of a file cabinet and your grandkids will fish it out after your funeral and wonder why you never did anything with such a great idea.
Turns out, the only way for an idea to survive is for you to live it. (The ten-dollar theological word for it is incarnation but you don’t have to use that unless you want to.) If you’re good soil for an idea, you’ll make time for it. If you really love it as much as you say you do, you’ll keep at it, work it around your other jobs, do it in spite of your old buddies making fun of you for it, put in the effort it needs, and stick with it in spite of all the other things that keep cropping up.
If it’s really a great idea, the effort will be worth it. Jesus thought the goal, the realization of the person you were born to be, was worth it. Jesus thought the idea that would make the world a better, more humane, more peaceful place for everyone was worth it.
Jesus thought you were a great idea. But do you? Really? Are you living it?
If you are, great! Tell us about it (in the comments). If not, what’s holding you back?