Seeds of new life

Very truly, I tell you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains just a single grain; but if it dies, it bears much fruit. Those who love their life lose it, and those who hate their life in this world will keep it for eternal life.” John 12: 24-25

 

Every time I read the phrase “hate their life in this world,” my mind screeches to a halt. What may Jesus be trying to teach us in these “Living Words?” Turning to other translations of this text is not particularly helpful, as the most common alternative is “for those who despise (or detest) their life in this world …” The translation of the Greek word miseō is pretty clear here. Even though some people question the rigor of Eugene Peterson’s translation of Scripture that appears in The Message, I am often grateful for his different perspective.

 

“In the same way, anyone who holds on to life just as it is destroys that life. But if you let it go, reckless in your love, you’ll have it forever, real and eternal.” John 12: 25 The Message

 

While I struggle to imagine despising or hating my life in this world, I can deeply resonate with the need to let it go, be reckless in love for the Lord. When I was in my early 30’s, we had two children at the time – ages 2 and 4 – and were in the process of adopting our son from South Korea. I had been working part-time at the University of Virginia, and we lived in a sweet little Cape in Charlottesville, VA. In many ways I loved my life, but the call to ministry had started knocking on my heart and would not go away.

 

 

Part of the reason I knew that the call was of God was because it involved letting go of my life as it was. I was raising my children in a community I loved while engaged in meaningful work – teaching as an adjunct professor in the Schools of Medicine and Arts at Sciences at UVA, and supporting one of the first hospice and palliative care programs located in a tertiary care hospital. I had dear friends, deep roots in the local Episcopal Church, a Zen meditation group that I loved, and favorite haunts for coffee, yoga, groceries, etc. It would have been so easy to stay put. The seed of a different life of serving God had been planted. The process of letting go of our life in Charlottesville was painful and involved constant trust that following the Spirit’s lead would guide me into new life.

 

 

It’s been almost 20 years since I began that discernment process. I still vividly remember how scared and difficult it was to uproot my family, move to a new community, and embark on this new call. Like a seed buried deep in the earth, I couldn’t see how this new call would take shape. But I could feel the ground warming, and I could trust that the cracking open was required to allow me to move forward. Give yourself a treat and click on the picture above to watch an amazing brief time-lapse video of a seed pushing roots into the soil before rising and unfurling its leaves.

In whatever ways you feel you may be asked to let go of your life, I pray that you can experience a taste of being reckless in love with Jesus as you take this huge risk… especially when we come to the end of our lives and are literally letting go of our lives in this world. I pray that you feel the warmth of the Spirit supporting you with every breath you take. I’ll have more to say on following God during difficult times in my Holy Week message next week. Until then, I send,

Abundant blessings of trust and hope,

Libby

(originally written as part of my interim work with St. Christopher’s Episcopal Church)