By JENNY SEYLAR
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 (kind of like this 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 a canoe trip. I planted the garden early in the week, and then I left on Thursday for northern Minnesota to go canoeing in the Boundary Waters.
I had a great time canoeing with friends, and thought nothing of my garden while I was away. When I returned 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 I had left before the trip. What I saw surprised me! Life had sprouted in the time I was away. The black soil was teaming with two and three inch plants. It turned out that while I was away, there was just the right amount of sun and rain to germinate and grow the seeds. It’s amazing that a tiny seed, when placed in the loamy soil, becomes a thriving plant.
I have found this principle to be true with the Bible. Sometimes I read familiar passages with one expectation, but God shows up in new ways on those pages and brings new life to what I’m reading. It’s almost as if I am reading some of those passages for the first time because they were beginning to sprout a new yearning in my heart for God, a deeper and richer understanding of His truth and His love. I have found the more I read and study, the more desire for the Word. Old negative habits, well worn into the fabric of my character, begin to die away as my faith begins to grow and change from the spiritual truths I am learning. I have discovered that there is 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 was in Jesus’ death and resurrection that the faith journeys of all us who come after Him are enriched and blessed. It is through Him that we can push through the hard soil of our hearts and yield a harvest much greater than we anticipate on our own. It is surprising; it is wonderous. But that is the blessing of Christ.
Just as I share with others the cut flowers and vegetables from my garden, I share with others from the growth in my heart and my faith. I cultivate in others so that the seed of faith can be planted in other lives and hearts. I have discovered that the seeds and directions for germination are contained in the text of the Bible. Conversations with others about how to live my faith also helps me to grow. It’s not enough to read the Bible and talk about my faith. My life as a follower requires more from me. My 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 I was created to be.
FOR FURTHER THOUGHT What habits in you must die so that God can germinate new ones in your life? How hard is it for you to let go of the old habits to which you embrace so tightly? Consider why you have such a firm grip on those things when you know they prevent you from sprouting and growing in your walk with God. We are people who were created to grow and thrive. We do that best when we allow God to work in our lives. Each faith encounter grows the seeds God plants. My friend, that does not happen unless we seek God out through 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 the Bible so God can help your faith grow.
PRAYER God of Life, You have placed all I need for life in the shell of a tiny seed. You have also placed in my heart all I need to live a full and complete life in Your Word and in our collective faith as Christ’s followers. Spur in me the desire for You and for Jesus, the One whose life, death, and resurrection allow me to experience salvation. I don’t always have the answers, but You always do. I don’t always have the strength, but You faithfully hold me in those moments and lend me Yours. You are so good! Thank You for the gift You give me, not only in life on this earth, but in the life to come. Amen.
ABOUT JENNY SEYLAR Jenny Seylar is a woman with a deep faith in Jesus Christ who serves in ministry at a United Methodist Church in Iowa. As a pastor and youth director, she is passionate about walking with youth, young adults, and adults of all ages as they journey in their faith. She believes in creating authentic relationships in order to walk alongside folks wherever they are in their faith journey.
In 2017, Jenny’s husband of 28 years unexpectedly died while on a training bicycle ride. In the aftermath, Jenny and her 3 grown kids, daughter-in-law, and granddaughter, have sought ways to find joy in the everyday miracles that make up this life. You can read more about Jenny Seylar and her ministry at www.lovelylane.org or her blog “Journey From Despair to Hope” at https://journeyandstrength.wordpress.com/2018/09/12/through-the-lens-of-grief/