The Science of a Seed
I love the beauty of the fields this time of year! As I was walking in the evening, I took some close-up photographs of the wheat stalks in the setting sun. The words of Jesus came to mind: “Unless a kernel of wheat is planted in the soil and dies, it remains alone. But its death will produce many new kernels – a plentiful harvest of new lives. Those who love their life in this world will lose it. Those who care nothing for their life in this world will keep it for eternity.” (John 12:24 NLT). What does it mean to lose our life to find it? What does the science of a seed have to do with our spiritual journey? Quite a bit, as it turns out…
Stage 1: Dormancy: Are You Sleeping?
When a seed is unable to germinate, even under ideal growing conditions, it’s called seed dormancy There are two different categories of seed dormancy: exogenous and endogenous. Exogenous dormancy is caused by external conditions, and endogenous dormancy refers to internal conditions that prevent germination. We are all like seeds – full of unseen potential but still dormant. Painful circumstances and relationships keep us in survival mode, unable to find a safe place to grow. And unhealthy mindsets and coping patterns keep us trapped in a victim mentality, even after our circumstances change. We hold onto the way we are and remain a seed.
Stage 2: Imbibition: Are You Thirsty?
A seed can’t germinate without water, and neither can we. Jesus said, “Let anyone who is thirsty come to me and drink. Whoever believes in me, as Scripture has said, rivers of living water will flow from within them.” (John 7:37-38). For seeds, there are three phases of imbibition, or water absorption: phase one is a rapid uptake of water, phase two is a plateau phase where the absorption of water slows down significantly. In phase three the seed resumes water uptake to grow the embryo inside. In the early stages of faith, we are thirsty, eager to absorb as much as we can. But inevitably there comes a time where we seem to plateau. We lose our sense of thirst and It feels like nothing is happening. We have to choose to drink even when we don’t feel thirsty. When we reach saturation, we break through…
Stage 3: Activation = Breakthrough
When a seed embryo is saturated with water, it activates enzymes that create energy for the embryo. This stage continues until the rupture of the seed shell. In other words, the shell breaks down before the seed breaks through! We all want a breakthrough…but we don’t want the break down part! Like a seed breaking out of its shell, growth and change are messy. Breaking old habits, familiar routines, and mindsets we’ve believed takes a lot of struggle and work. It’s very freeing, but also unsettling and sometimes painful. I think that’s part of what it means to lose our lives. “That’s just the way I am” becomes: “God, who do you say I am?”
Stage 4: Grow down before you grow up
After it breaks through its shell, a seed needs roots to access water differently. It can no longer just absorb water through its shell, it needs roots. Before it grow up, it has to grow down. The same is true for us: “Then Christ will make his home in your hearts as you trust in him. Your roots will grow down into God’s love and keep you strong.”(Ephesians 3:17 NLT) The more we mature, the deeper we need to grow. We can’t rely on absorbing spiritual strength or knowledge from others. Ultimately, people can never love us perfectly or meet all our needs. We need to go to the Source. We have to put down our own roots if we want our life aboveground to stay strong.
Are We There Yet?
Do we ever reach maturity?? 😩 Well…yes and no. When I say I want to reach maturity, I’m really saying I want to get to a place where I’ve ‘arrived’. A place where I can sit back, put up my feet and coast. But our maturation process is not quite as cut and dry as it is for wheat.😉 We can be dormant in one area, and ripening in another. There’s always room for growth. To me, maturity is when we go from being fed by others, to nurturing ourselves enough that we can feed others.
Make me a Harvest
A kernel of wheat goes through so much before it becomes a harvest! I found out that during the ripening when the grain is developed, the plant withers and dies. And when harvest time comes, the wheat must reach a certain dryness or the grain will spoil or sprout. We don’t like to think too much about “losing our life”. But we forget the good news: when we lose, we gain. We have to let go in order to take hold of the life that God has made us to be. We all contain a harvest of inside of us. So let’s keep growing!