Seed Slowly Dying

seed

Truly, truly, I say to you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies,
it remains alone; but if it dies, it bears much fruit.
~Jesus, John 12:24

I’ve been thinking about that little quote this week. And it finally…FINALLY…is hitting home. Jesus had just been thronged by massive crowds welcoming him into Jerusalem as the King of Israel. It was his last Passover. He is talking here about his own impending physical death, through which he could build a bridge for all of us to be restored to the Father. He is the seed, dropped here for us. He was aware of his choice. On one hand, a slightly more glorious life on earth, avoiding the cross but not achieving his mission. On the other, a painful humiliating death, but through it grafting us back on to the Tree of Life and multiplying – producing many seeds from the gift of one.

I am the vine, you are the branches; he who abides in Me and I in him,
he bears much fruit, for apart from Me you can do nothing.
~Jesus, John 15:5

Seeds are amazing. Each one shelters and feeds a unique plant waiting to be revealed. To be seen.

For a viable seed to blossom and grow, it must sacrifice its own cozy shell. That protective wall must soften and crack if the life inside is to flourish. The seed itself must cease to be, in order to become what it was created and designed to be. It sounds magnificent and terrifying at the same time. Aren’t you glad we don’t have a choice like that?

Ack – I’ve never felt more like a seed in my life!!

For several months now, THIS is where I have paced, fighting tooth and nail to keep my shell intact. We have all grown up in an imperfect world, with mostly well-meaning but imperfect people informing us what the world is, who we are, and how others will treat us when we are truly seen. It feels a lot safer to hide in my shell than risk the threat of ridicule, rejection, or violation. That fear has, unfortunately, shaped my person and my choices, and sabotaged every relationship I’ve ever attempted.

This isn’t the wilderness. It’s the valley of death. It sucks to be here and to be here so long. But I think of it as soreness after a hard workout – always worth it to get to the next level. Today I am thankful for the courage to pray: “If you show me, I will look.” Thankful for the desire to soften, bloom, and fight to receive everything that I’ve inherited. Thankful for great teachers and friends who walk with me, or stand ahead with arms wide open.

Above all else, I’m thankful that Jesus chose to sacrifice his own comfortable shell so that I could have the opportunity to do the same. That he brings peace, rest, and strength to those who walk with him…who die with him. And thankful for words that capture a fraction of his love for me. For us.

The Lord is my shepherd;
    I have all that I need.
He lets me rest in green meadows;
    he leads me beside peaceful streams.
   He renews my strength.
He guides me along right paths,
    bringing honor to his name.
Even when I walk
    through the dark valley of death,
I will not be afraid,
    for you are close beside me.
Your rod and your staff
    protect and comfort me.
You prepare a feast for me
    in the presence of my enemies.
You honor me by anointing my head with oil.
    My cup overflows with blessings.
Surely your goodness and unfailing love will pursue me
    all the days of my life,
and I will live in the house of the Lord
    forever.
~David, Psalm 23

Stay in the Boat

A friend and I were talking last night about diligence and exhaustion. She reminded me of the story where, after a hugely miraculous day (feeding the crowd of at least 5,000 men with five loaves and two fish), Jesus sends his disciples off to cross the Sea of Galilee (that’s eight miles, folks) in a boat. He disperses the crowd, spends some hours alone, and then walks out to meet them. On the water. One of many awesome pranks I imagine he played on those guys.

Peter actually joins him for a bit, and that is super encouraging to me, but this story makes it very clear: Jesus simply lives plugged in and empowered on a different level than they do. Just like the rest of us.

And just like the rest of us, they went through a stretch where they were out in that boat and struggling. They were “a long distance from the land, battered by the waves; for the wind was contrary” (Matthew 14:24). They were plowing through, diligent in their rowing, but I’d bet money that they took turns at the oars, giving each other time to rest and recuperate.

Ugh – this whole year I have just wanted to take a break. Do you know it’s ok to admit feeling worn out, seasick, and beat down by the wind and waves? Just don’t leave the boat. My tendency when I am dealing with something ugly or hard is to jump ship. I don’t want to burden the rest of the crew. In more honest terms, I really don’t want them to know how weak and imperfect I am. I don’t want to officially fail, and I certainly don’t want anyone else to see me do it. So I leave to fight, flounder, and almost certainly fail alone.

I seriously hope you can’t relate to that.

It’s easy for me to accept that we are meant to support each other through rough storms. I’ll fluff up the pillows to help you recuperate in style. But the thought of ME climbing up into the palanquin to ask for help…for all to see…is the stuff of nightmares.

Y’all. We must let our team carry us when we need to rest. We must have a team we trust with that.

Otherwise, the role we’re playing is not “teammate”. At best we can call ourselves a part-time cheerleader, but at the heart we’re living the role of big-fat-lying-fear-filled-manipulator. It’s letting everyone see us as superheroes when we’re strong, and hiding when we’re weak. It’s prideful. It’s dishonest. It’s foolish. Spank. It’s keeping us from connecting on a real level, and presenting an unrealistic and unhealthy example for others to follow.

So…that’s what I had to say when I started, but as always, HE takes us deeper. I read that chapter (Matthew 14) again from the beginning, and also in the other gospels. It turns out that day was even longer than I thought. It was the very day Jesus learned that his cousin John was beheaded by Herod Antipas.

Yes, he spent the day healing, teaching, and managing people and making food multiply. But do you know how it started?

They went away in the boat to a secluded place by themselves.
Mark 6:32

He didn’t jog out on the water alone that morning. He let his friends and his Father carry him for a minute. Jesus spent a lot of time alone, but he made it a point to find a team he trusted. He showed us how to walk out real stuff well: humility, love, even grief. Because we ALL experience it.

I’m so thankful that, despite my efforts to hermit myself away and fail in silence, I also have a team that I trust and love, that encourages me to sit down and hand over my paddle every once in a while. That loves me whether I’m superwoman or barely making it through the day. You know the saying: You can only give what you have. Well, I am learning true love at your hands, and I am forever grateful. Lives are changing.

And He Will Hear Me

Oh,  how I love it when my heart is broken!

That may sound like a really unhealthy thing to say, but I promise I’m no masochist. It’s just that, knowing how hard, stubborn, and willful my heart can be, this tenderness still catches me by surprise. What a joy to be brought to my knees with one whisper, one touch. To have a soft heart in this world is a miracle.

I started sharing my journey publicly back in November 2011, each post a pebble marking my way through such an amazing adventure. I think it’s cool how God’s timing is so precise – the patterns are clear to see when we look. Last month mirrors October 2011, the month before I started writing the blogs. It was also a time of intense struggle and great breakthrough. Of crying out to the Lord, of surrender, of victory. Both Octobers were months of quiet internal wrestling, but this year…

I couldn’t begin to tell you how many times “help me” has passed my lips this year.

My voice rises to God, and I will cry aloud;
My voice rises to God, and He will hear me.
Psalm 77:1

What a sweet promise, what a mantra to cling to in these times. I have found myself nestling up into Psalm 77 because it so perfectly echoes my heart’s cry, my fears, my questions, my doubts.

In the day of my trouble I sought the Lord;
In the night my hand was stretched out without weariness;
My soul refused to be comforted.
When I remember God, then I am disturbed;
When I sigh, then my spirit grows faint. Selah.
…And my spirit ponders:
Will the Lord reject forever?
And will He never be favorable again?
Has His lovingkindness ceased forever?
Has His promise come to an end forever?
Has God forgotten to be gracious,
Or has He in anger withdrawn His compassion? Selah.
Psalm 77:2-9

And then, like a flash, there is his whisper, reminding me that those are the wrong questions. Born out of focusing on the wrong things (circumstances) through the wrong lens (mine). He never changes. It is me, and my perspective, that is forever wandering. He is constant, he is patient, and he LOVES when I allow him to woo me back to his heart.

Then I said, “It is my grief
That the right hand of the Most High has changed.”
Psalm 77:10

It’s so easy to keep asking the wrong questions. To focus on the wrong things or through the wrong lens and become bitter. There is nothing new about that. You know, almost every answer Jesus gave sounded like he was answering a different question. The REAL question. He’s very good at redirecting us to the questions we need to ask…if we just take our questions to him.

What an interesting year this has been. I had so many expectations for it…I fully believed I would be in a different place than I am today. But here I am, with a much deeper understanding of him, of me, and a rapidly changing perspective of the point of this life. He turns grief to joy in an instant when we take it to him. Pure joy. Thankful girl.