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People today are so busy! So much time is spent running here and there. Though sometimes it can’t be helped, there are moments when our rushing is far more of a detriment than we realize.
There is a compelling metaphor that should help prevent us from stretching ourselves thin. It is the metaphor of the seed. Jesus began his teaching ministry with the parable of the sower (Matthew 13) and referred to seeds and trees, fruit and branches, throughout his ministry. To see the metaphor of Christian growth and spiritual development contained in a seed is to learn valuable lessons about change and transformation.
Lesson One: Seeds Need a Rich Environment
A seed that lacks appropriate soil may sprout, but will quickly wither and die. This applies to the environment in which we grow as Christian disciples. There must be an ongoing flow of comfort and security, challenge and inspiration, learning and service.
Lesson Two: Seeds Can’t Be Rushed
When seeds do not sprout, take root, and grow, try yelling at them. Of course, that is a preposterous idea. No one would ever think that they could somehow rush the normal growing process. Seeds require the amount of time that they require. In God’s plan, the time things take is the right time. People, however, get impatient. Our culture puts pressure on us to rush through everything. We live in an age of instant gratification. Seeds teach us that we need to learn to wait, to develop patience. Christian formation is a process of seed-like growth. Patience is the key ingredient to transformational growth.
Lesson Three: All Seeds Grow at Different Rates
Plant a package of seeds, and immediately you see diversity in the rate of growth. Some sprout almost immediately and begin a steady rate of growth. Those which sprout late often become early bloomers. And some normal beginners end up stunted and sickly. Growth is rarely even, and it is often chaotic. Nothing we do will change this diversity. Where seeds are concerned, we are comfortable with different rates of development. This is not always true with our attitudes about Christian believers. We often adopt a “cookie-cutter” approach to disciple making that makes some seem advanced, while others lag behind. The seed teaches us that to mature in different ways at different times is the only true normal.
Lesson Four: Change Happens in Stages
Examine any plant as it grows from seed to maturity, and you will find that it is hard to believe you are looking at the same plant. While the growth follows a smooth process, it proceeds through distinct stages. We move through ages and stages of faith development as we grow from seed to sapling to fruit-bearing tree.
Lesson Five: Seeds Contain the Past
and the Future
Each seed is the product of previous generations and contains within it all the genetic code for the future. Seeds are filled with the information that yields transformation. Each generation builds upon the last and lays the foundation for the next generation. The Word of God is the information we contain — passed down throughout the ages and preserved in us for the future — that holds the power to transform us. When we give ourselves time to grow, we unleash the God-given power to become mature Christian disciples.
Lesson Six: Seeds Have a Purpose Larger Than Themselves
Growth is not the purpose of a seed, but a means to an end. Unless seeds give rise to new seeds, they fail to fulfill their purpose. Transformation never happens for its own sake. Change happens to lead us to a new place. Growth occurs that we might not only know more, but that we might do more. Seeds are judged, ultimately, on the fruit that they bear. Christians may never content themselves with growing in their knowledge and love of God. Growth that fails to lead to a change in behavior is cancerous, not healthy. We grow for a reason, and that reason is something much larger than any individual’s needs.
The Rev. Drew Oakley is pastor of the United Methodist Church of Carrollton, Ky.