In Spite of Me
When my husband and I headed into our first spring together as a married couple, I decided to plant a vegetable garden in the backyard. It was a late spring that year, and I didn’t get the seeds in the ground until late May, just before Memorial Day weekend. My goal was to get the vegetables planted between the numerous rain storms, and before I left for the long weekend. I planted the garden early in the week, and then I left on Thursday for a canoe trip in the Boundary Waters of northern Minnesota.
Canoeing with friends was wonderful, and I thought nothing of my garden while I was away. Upon returning the Tuesday after Memorial Day, I walked to the back of the yard to survey the progress in the garden. It had been less than a week since I planted, and I fully expected to find the level area of dark soil that was left before the trip. What I saw surprised me! In spite of my efforts, life had sprouted forth in the time I was away. The black soil was teaming with two and three inch plants. It turned out that while I was in Minnesota, there was just the right amount of sun and rain to germinate and grow the seeds. It’s a miracle how a tiny seed, when placed in the loamy soil, becomes a thriving plant.
It seems that my faith walk experiences some of the same spurts of growth in spite of my own efforts. Sometimes I read familiar passages in the Bible with an expectation in mind, only to discover that God desires to illuminate the verses in unexpected ways, bringing new life to what I am reading. It’s almost as if I am viewing some of the passages for the first time, and the words of scripture begin to sprout a new yearning in my heart for God. It brings me to a deeper and richer understanding of God’s love and working in my life. I have found that the more I read and study, the more I long to engage in the Word. Old negative habits that have become the very fabric of my character, begin to die away as my faith begins to change because of the growth in my faith walk. I have unearthed inspiration in the Bible that empowers and guides me to live my day-to-day life in a way that is more like Jesus Christ.
In the Gospel of John, I am reminded of how Jesus had to die in order to bring forth life. John 12: 23-24 (CEB) "Jesus replied, 'The time has come for the Human One to be glorified. I assure you that unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it can only be a single seed. But if it dies, it bears much fruit.' " Jesus died so God could act on my behalf, allowing me to receive not only eternal life, but a richer, more abundant earthly life as well. It is in the death and resurrection of Jesus that my faith journey, and the faith journeys of all us, are enriched and blessed. It is through Christ that I can push through the hard, dry soil of my heart and yield a much greater harvest than on my own. It is surprising and wondrous, and that is the blessing that comes in a deep relationship with Jesus Christ.
Just as I impart to others the cut flowers and vegetables from my garden, I am able to share with others the growth in my heart. In fact, I write Blogs of faith to do just that. It brings me great joy to be able to cultivate in others the seeds of faith that can change hearts and lives. I have discovered that, like the seed packets for my garden, the directions for sowing and germination are contained in the text of the Bible. Conversations with others about how I live my faith helps me to continue to grow. It’s not enough to read the Bible and talk about my faith. My life as a follower requires much more from me. Faith grows when I allow my old habits to die in the “soil” so that God can sprout new habits in me: exclusionary behaviors die so that I may be more inclusive of those who are not like me; selfishness dies so that I may give more of myself in service to others; trying to be someone I am not dies in me so that I may become my authentic self, the one created in the image of God.
FOR FURTHER THOUGHT
What habits in you must die so that God can cultivate new ones in your life? How hard is it for you to let go of the old habits to which you embrace so tightly? Why do you have such a firm grip on those things when they prevent you from sprouting and growing in your walk with God? Each person was created to grow and thrive. We do that best when we allow God to work in our lives, and each faith encounter grows the seeds God plants. My friend, that does not happen unless we seek God amid prayer, Bible reading, and time with others discussing how Christ is working in our lives. How might you allow God to grow the seeds of faith in your heart? What needs to change in your daily living to make that happen? Make a commitment this week to read scripture (like the Gospel of John) so that in spite of, and because of your best efforts, God can help your faith to grow.
God of Life, You have placed all I need in the shell of a tiny seed. You have also placed in my heart all that I need to live a full and complete life. That includes the wisdom of Your Word, and the collective faith of Christ's followers. Cultivate in me the desire for You and for Jesus, the One whose life, death, and resurrection allow me to experience salvation. I don’t have all the answers, but You always do. I don’t always have the strength to endure the hard things, but You faithfully hold me in those moments and lend me Your strength. You are so good! Thank You for the gift You give me, not only in life on this earth, but in the life yet to come. Amen.
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