We are thinking of ourselves like seeds this Lent, like Jesus said about his own self, that he was a seed that had to die and be buried in the ground, and rise back to life to produce many seeds. We’re in an organic process too! The spiritual life is an organic, embodied one, one that offers hope that life goes on and on eternally because of Christ’s resurrection.
Being seeds invites us to be planted in the soil of community, the community of faith – where the Spirit can soften and open us. We need each other. That’s why we’re painting this underground fungal network around the cross – this is the “magic” stuff that is in the soil, like the Spirit’s work in community to encourage us to undergo the process of transformation and change in our lives. The call to love each other helps strip away our old selves, our defenses, our habits and patterns that hold us down and keep us locked inside. This powerful, often invisible network nurtures and empowers us to become our new selves in Christ, our best selves that are already planted in us, like a seed! We are trying to stay in the soil this Lent and trust this process of God’s love working on us and through us together.
I want to focus on the waiting in the process today, and offer two gifts of being buried in the ground until new life happens: security and promise.
After seeds are planted, they often hang out in the dark earth, buried for a long time until anything happens. We’re right here in the middle of Lent, and if you’re observing the season in a meaningful way it usually feels like it takes a LONG time to get to Easter in the middle of these 40 days. It also takes a long time for the mycelium network in the earth to gently open seeds before the radical, that brave first shoot of new life, can pop out and take root. Some seeds have to be buried for multiple seasons before anything happens; for example, the bamboo seed is buried for 5 years before it germinates! And the fullness of our transformation takes a long time too. So I hope this post encourages you to be patient with yourself and others. We’re all seeds that need to soak in the environment of God’s love for a lifetime, in order to see what we will be.
The good news is that there is security and belonging in the waiting. The apostle Paul wrote to the Colossian church that our lives are hidden with Christ in God. Our place with Christ, IN Christ, provides a place of safety to learn and grow, no matter how long it takes. This is a place of grace, a truly safe place to be held and nurtured in a dangerous and threatening world. “Safety” is such a wanted and elusive concept these days, but Jesus offers it to each of us personally in a way that nothing can change. No fault of our own can take it away; no terrible circumstance in the world can destroy it. Our lives are hidden with Christ in God. We are protected, spiritually speaking, from the punishment of sin and death. We are held in the mystery of the dark earth, even in the wildness of community, where the Spirit can bring us into fullness. I must admit, it’s an uncomfortable process, much of the time! But nothing can take us out of God’s love. Nothing can separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus. (Romans 8:35-39) We are literally planted in the soil of it. In all the suffering and changing of community, God’s love is the main ingredient in this soil.
There are times in this soil of the community of faith, even with God’s love, that feel like death. We are dying as we surrender to the process of our transformation here. The dying is what it takes to love each other. The dying is what it takes to be so changed by God’s love that we can see each other with spiritual eyes in this soil. And in this dying process, when it feels like everything is doomed and we are hopelessly losing ourselves and everything we hold dear – that is when we must remember Jesus’s rising. He didn’t just suffer and die. He rose to new life, eternal life, and we will too. He said he was the first to rise and all who come after him will also live forever.
This is the promise of our transformation. That life will not end in death. Life will not end in this painful process of transformation, no matter how much we have to give up for it. When we feel like failures, or other people hurt us, or when we feel lost or uncertain, when we can’t see the road in front of us, that’s the moment to remember that we are seeds, buried with Christ, and we will rise, even though it takes a long time. Our lives are hidden with Christ in God.
I used to do some serious underground caving. There were moments when head lamps would burn out, and in those moments, you cannot imagine the darkness sixty feet underground where no light gets in. Being a seed sounds romantic until you are waiting there for rescue in the impenetrable darkness and stillness, unable to see even an inch from your face.
These are the moments to remember the promise of change that comes from being one of Jesus’s seeds. This change happens not just in the life to come, but in this one too! Check out the passage in Colossians to see the change we are called to now, even as we wait for the fullness of our transformation:
“Since, then, you have been raised with Christ, set your hearts on things above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things. For you died, and your life is now hidden with Christ in God. When Christ, who is your life, appears, then you also will appear with him in glory.
Put to death, therefore, whatever belongs to your earthly nature: sexual immorality, impurity, lust, evil desires and greed, which is idolatry. Because of these, the wrath of God is coming. You used to walk in these ways, in the life you once lived. But now you must also rid yourselves of all such things as these: anger, rage, malice, slander, and filthy language from your lips. Do not lie to each other, since you have taken off your old self with its practices and have put on the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge in the image of its Creator. Here there is no Gentile or Jew, circumcised or uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave or free, but Christ is all, and is in all.
Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. Bear with each other and forgive one another if any of you has a grievance against someone. Forgive as the Lord forgave you. And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity.
Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, since as members of one body you were called to peace. And be thankful. Let the message of Christ dwell among you richly as you teach and admonish one another with all wisdom through psalms, hymns, and songs from the Spirit, singing to God with gratitude in your hearts. And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.” (Colossians 3)
So having our lives hidden with Christ in God (which happens simply by having some shred of faith in Jesus) puts us in this process of transformation where we outgrow what we don’t need: lust, greed, idolatry, rage, malice, slander, lying. It might take awhile and a lot of therapy LOL; I got too angry at my kids just last weekend. But the promise is that this soil of God’s love will change us. Compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, patience, forgiveness, peace, and gratitude will ultimately win out in us if we can stay in the soil.
Let the soil of God’s love in community work on you this season, even if it feels like dying or you think that nothing good is happening. You are safe in Christ. Nothing can take you out of his love; you are safe to learn and grow and change. But when the change is imperceptible, remember that you’re a seed. This transformation takes time. The promise of rising into your fullness has already been written; by God’s grace it WILL happen, and it’s already happening in ways we can’t see from inside the soil.