As mothers, we are amazed at the miracle of growing up: how is this walking, talking person the baby I held not so long ago? As long as minimum requirements are met, our kids grow until they reach full stature. It’s hard to screw that part up.
Growth, however, is not the only essential for children, and Jesus is not messing around when he 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” (John 12:24). In order for a seed to grow, it has to crack open and die. That’s a scary and painful prospect for a little seed down there in the soil. Nature, however, will have its way with or without the seed’s consent, and its death will result in a glorious canopy and sweet fruits that a little seed could never have imagined.
Jesus says this “truly” applies to us as well. However, it’s hard for us to let this happen because, unlike the seed, we have choice, and our gut-reaction to any kind of “death” is usually self-preservation. I have a personal example: a year or two ago I took an unwilling child to counseling because none of my efforts had succeeded in fostering healthy communication between us. After a couple months, we stopped going. Nothing was changing, and the therapist didn’t have much to offer. Except . . . except that thing I pretended not to hear. A couple of times she had gently suggested that I was over-communicating. This completely annoyed me because I had bent-over-backwards and poured myself into this child. Instead of seeing that, the therapist was picking me apart. It made me mad and I disagreed.
So, I protected myself, but her comments stayed in the back of my mind. As time passed, I started to notice that maybe others, including my husband, thought I over-communicated. My “seed” started to soften. Then, I began to think of people I love who have destroyed relationships by refusing to admit any faults of their own. I cracked open a little more. Eventually, I realized that I was a fool if protecting my ego meant clinging to behaviors that were causing damage, and I started to want to crack that seed open. Since surrendering and starting to back-off in the amount I try to share (definitely a work in progress), all of my relationships have begun to improve.
My initial defensive reaction made sense because criticism always hurts, and I was doing so many things right as a mom. I’m sure lots of other moms would have felt the same way. But these can be the dying moments that Jesus is talking about and our biggest moments of grace IF we can get out of protection mode and accept the sting of a dying ego. In God’s awesome irony, this sting will lead to fruit that protected little seeds can only dream of.