Thursday, June 11, 2020
Balanced and Beautiful in Christ #3
“Very truly I tell you, unless a kernel of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains only a single seed. But if it dies, it produces many seeds. Anyone who loves their life will lose it, while anyone who hates their life in this world will keep it for eternal life.” - John 12:24-25 NIV
I’m a fairly avid gardener. Although my parents were not really into gardening, other family members helped me gain the skills I needed to enjoy it. My mother’s mother lived with us, and although she only spoke Armenian and couldn’t teach me with words, I often spent time with her in the garden. I nurtured her much sought after flat-leaf parsley, sweet peas, prized fig tree, and beautiful Hydrangeas. My father and his sisters were raised in Holland, and one of them lived just an hour away from us in California. Her life was very different from ours. She lived inland, away from the hustle and bustle of our coastal city, where she and her family had acres of citrus trees, pomegranate trees, and a proliferous flower garden that she would walk me through when I visited.
No matter what was growing at the time, there was value in the seeds that my Grandma and Aunt saved for their gardens the following year.
Allowing the seeds to dry on my Grandma's plants required patience. If we cut the parsley after it began to bolt and before it went to seed, then she would not have starter seeds for the following year. The parsley had to dry on the plant, or it could not regenerate the seed to produce new crops when planted.
Today, I go through the same process with the Zinnia flowers in my own garden. The outer florets hold the seeds, and they must dry on the plant in the garden for the best Zinnia seeds next year. I leave at least half of the flowers uncut and let them stay in the garden for the birds, butterflies, and bees to enjoy. When fall arrives, the flowers are brown and seeds have developed. Then, I pull off the spent petals (the seeds are at the base of the outer florets) and place them in a bag to plant the following year.
A similar process occurs in our faith. In our day-to-day living, we must let distractions die so that we can continue to grow each new year. If I live too comfortably and do not allow certain things to die—even good things, like marriage, family, and being involved in church and parachurch ministry—I can only produce a limited amount of fruit in my life. It is the BEST crop that God is after, and the best requires death.
There have been seasons that I might have tried anything to keep my kids from growing up, my marriage from developing in new ways, and my own faith from taking deeper root. I was comfortable in my life and status-quo faith. God had to shake things up so that I might die to self and allow Him to be the most important thing in my life again.
In clinging to what was familiar, I had unknowingly pushed God aside. I made him share the throne of my heart with my adorable littles, their popularity in small-town school and sports, my booming business, my husband's successful career, and volunteering for church and mission organizations. Even good things can become seed stealing when I make them more important than God in my life.
I heard a now-retired pastor say it well several years ago, “Think of every wonderful thing that you love in your life today. Every person, activity, hobby, talent, vacation, sport, and sports team. Now think of heaven. If you found out that these things would not be in heaven, would you still want to go? Now, what about Jesus? If He is the only thing in heaven, would you be willing to leave all these other things behind to be with only Him?”
Distractions embellish our lives—even our pared-down, semi-pandemic lives—keeping us from wanting Jesus more. We want to justify picking flowers and bringing them into our comfort zone instead of allowing them to age and wither on the plant. In doing so, we rob the seeds of their natural ability to equip us to produce MORE flowers and fruit in their proper season. The waiting, the weathering, and the slow “dying to self” that must take place does not seem like much fun when displayed next to others’ Instagram-worthy lives. Yet, when we compare our deaths to self to the fullness of eternal life with God, there is really no comparison at all.