When Jesus talks about the grain of wheat dying to give life, he isn’t primarily talking about physical death. The grain of wheat gives up its image of itself, its identity, and its closed-in existence in order to sprout into new life. It remains alive, but more fully so.
We who follow Jesus are called to do the same throughout our lives, in ways big and small, right up until the time of the physical deaths of our bodies. We have to let go of many things and die to many things, in order to become more alive in Christ.
Since I am a competent, independent, highly active person who travels the country for work, sometimes I have to be smacked hard to be reminded of this. My “smack” began on Mother’s Day weekend when a freak accidental fall broke my hip, requiring a total hip replacement. Suddenly, I was an invalid, dependent on others to even get out of bed. I had to cancel engagements and admit my frailty. I had to learn patience with a body that knew the slow path to healing and wasn’t about to be bullied into haste. I had to allow others to serve me instead of the other way around. I had to accept a different pace of life and a different sense of accomplishment. (When was the last time you celebrated the fact that you could bend down and tie your own shoes?) In short, I had to repeatedly let go of my self-defined identity and self-reliant existence.
As all these little deaths added up, our life-giving God slipped in. In the quiet and inactivity, God opened up the hurts and difficulties I had suppressed when I was “too busy” to pay attention to them. I reflected on my relationships, my goals, and where God was calling me. I adopted again the stance of a child – not proudly self-sufficient, but reliant on the one in whom I live and move and have my being. I let go. Necessary things died. I grew, even as I became more grounded.
I am still recovering as I write this. Yet I am again living in the sure knowledge that all I have, all I own, all of my abilities, and all of my successes can disappear in an instant. I am not in control. Yet no matter what happens, as Paul wrote: “God is able to make every grace abundant for you, so that in all things, always having all you need, you may have an abundance for every good work.” In every death, God will give me what I need to bring life. I am trying to do a better job of living into that reality. Even if it takes a good smack to remind me.
Amy Florian is a teacher and consultant working in Chicago. For many years she has partnered with the Passionists. Visit Amy’s website: http://www.corgenius.com/.