The airplane bounced and wobbled, amplifying my rolling seven month pregnant gait as I navigated the narrow path between seats to the tiny bathroom yet again. It was April 2017 and I was pregnant with my fourth child. We were moving our family to South Korea to serve as missionaries. The discomfort of a 24 hour trip halfway around the world in my third trimester was just another step in saying “yes” to God’s calling on our lives. I had said “yes” to four children in five years. I had said “yes” to living without a home of our own while we raised support for two years. Splashing my face with water, I savored the moment alone and said “yes” again, quietly, in my heart.
The airplane carried me as I carried my child. My soul breathed deeply of peace that passed my understanding. God was carrying my whole family into a new season of life. He was also going to carry me into a new understanding of strength through surrender.
Seeds of Faithfulness
In John 12:24, Jesus says, “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.”
This verse was to become a personal anthem over the months ahead as we adjusted to our new life. There were days I thought I might literally fall down and die, I was that tired and sore. There were countless errands to run, a household shipment to unpack, and, oh yes, making sure we had food to eat and clean clothes to wear. If you had said that there was an option to “remain alone” I would have said, “Where can I sign up for that?!”
In the days before His death on the cross Jesus used a grain of wheat, a tiny seed, as the example of His coming sacrifice. The Son of God was going to “fall into the earth,” dying for sinners. Out of His death would come new life. Jesus was the seed and all who trust in Him are His fruit. His story is our story. I began to consciously choose the story of the seed. When I resented the strangeness of the culture, I told my self-centered attitude to “fall down and die”. When homesickness was my midnight companion, when my baby was eleven days late, I held tightly to the image of myself as a seed, breaking open, growing new life, nourishing my family.
Wondering at the Seed
A seed holds amazing potential— food, clothing, shelter, and beauty. A seed is a treasure trove of wonder. But it can only bring new life from its death. I’m going to call this a “good death” because it ultimately leads to life, not just for that plant but for countless other living things. A single, tiny seed can crack a sidewalk, feed a family, or grow a mighty tree. That tiny seed can eventually become a piece of homemade bread that makes your mouth water. Our existence on this planet depends on tiny seeds fulfilling their purpose, bringing new life from their “good deaths.”
Seeds have their seasons of growth and their season of stillness and waiting. What is your season right now? I keep small humans alive all day. I make sure they have their needs met. I am learning to be at rest in my season, not wishing for the next one. I don’t truly want to “remain alone.” I mean, yes, it would be nice to use the bathroom without little bodies pushing against the door. But in the big picture, I want my life to be full to bursting with new life. The hard work I do today prepares the way for the fruit to come later.
The Potential for a Life Laid Down
God calls us to make this picture of the seed our story, laying down our lives for others. Your home, your family, your community is the soil in which you lay down your life. It is in the hard moments, the struggle, the stresses of life that you create a picture of “good death” leading to life.
What is it that cracks your shell? Is it when you tell your kids to pick up their toys and they ignore you? Is it when that persnickety child calls your home cooked meal yucky? Is it when the baby won't stop crying so you can just get a little sleep? Is it when you feel the household chores piling up and you are just barely surviving? Is it when you are heartsick and discouraged and feel so very alone? Don’t resist the cracking open. Let it be the beginning of new life.
The story of the seed is not glamorous, but it is glorious when we see it with the eyes of eternity. God loves our small offerings. He delights to multiply over and over, to make beauty from our brokenness, to feed countless generations from our sacrifices, to grow mighty trees that withstand hurricanes.
It starts right there, in the too early morning or the too late night. It starts with the unexpected extra work or the strain of too much to do in too little time. It starts with your hands in the dishwater or holding the broom and dustpan. It starts with the thing that irritates you or with the person who is hard to love. It starts in the secret places of your soul. It starts when you lay down what is easy and choose what is right. It starts with our eyes fixed on Jesus.
Now, ten months later, we are settled into our new life. We have arranged our apartment on the 18th floor to feel like a home. South Korea has captured our hearts and we look forward to a fruitful life here. That little baby who crossed the ocean inside me is a bright-eyed eight month old who is adored by her three siblings. I have found having a little baby in my arms build bridges despite language barriers! Here, at my crumb covered, slightly sticky table, the promise of the mighty tree is my hope. Here, as I struggle to read labels in Korean, I long for bread from this seed of surrender. Here, during another 2:00 am feeding, the story of the seed is mine. I say “yes” to breaking open and giving my all for God. I am confident that I will find abundant life waiting to burst forth!
“So we do not lose heart. Though our outer self is wasting away, our inner self is being renewed day by day. This light and momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison, as we look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen. For the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal.” (2 Corinthians 4:17-18)