Jesus replied, “The hour has come for the Son of Man to be glorified. Very truly I tell you, unless a kernel of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains only a single seed. But if it dies, it produces many seeds. Anyone who loves their life will lose it, while anyone who hates their life in this world will keep it for eternal life. Whoever serves me must follow me; and where I am, my servant also will be. My Father will honor the one who serves me.
– John 12:23-26
“Many religious people lament that the first fervours of their conversion have died away. They think – sometimes rightly, but not, I believe, always – that their sins account for this. They may even try by pitiful efforts of will to revive what now seem to have been the golden days. But were those fervours – the operative word is those – ever intended to last? …
“And the joke, or tragedy, of it all is that these golden moments in the past, which are so tormenting if we erect them into a norm, are entirely nourishing, wholesome, and enchanting if we are content to accept them for what they are, for memories. Properly bedded down in a past which we do not miserably try to conjure back, they will send up exquisite growths. Leave the bulbs alone, and the new flowers will come up. Grub them up and hope, by fondling and sniffing, to get last year’s blooms, and you will get nothing. ‘Unless a seed die …’”
– C. S. Lewis, Letters to Malcolm, Chiefly on Prayer (emphasis the author’s)
The Scripture here is so rich with lessons. The seed bearing fruit. Losing one’s life to gain it. Hating one’s life and keeping it. And serving our God. Let’s look at the seed…
For the Dutch flower specialists out there, they may disagree with Lewis to a degree. When you plant narcissi (narcissus, daffodil, jonquil, etc.), they will come up each spring. Tulip bulbs work better if you dig them up, clean them, store them in the fridge or a cool dry place, and then replant them in the Fall. You must know what you are dealing with. It is the old perennials versus annuals thing. Yet, Lewis is right in that if you only fondle and sniff them – never plant them, they’ll never grow another flower.
To Lewis’ main point: Can you remember that feeling right after you accepted Jesus? Wasn’t that great? Have you ever tried to relive that feeling or recapture it, as C. S. Lewis describes?
My wife and I discussed how we used to be on fire for this or we were on fire for that. Maybe we have settled down. Grown up?
In looking at these two extremes, I am reminded of a ‘parable’ from Justin Wilson, from the 70s or 80s probably. It may be a stretch, but I will try to tie it together. I won’t use too much of the Cajun vernacular so that the message can be better understood but be prepared for wrong verb tenses.
Wilson starts off by saying that all his stories are true, or they might be true, or they could happen, but this one is a (colorful word deleted) lie, I gua-rawn-tee.
Picture two lickin’ pot hounds relaxin’ in the front yard. If they is one thing that a lickin’ pot hound is the master of, it is how to took a relax. One hound says to the other hound, “What is those childrens on the front porch doin’?”
Now what the children were doin’ was dancing those new dances, like the Watusi and the Twist. (The dance moves date the ‘parable.’) They was gyrating all over that porch. Not none of them dancing with each other.
The other lickin’ pot hound raised his head just ever so slight. He didn’t want to broke his relax, no. He eased his head back down and says, “I don’t know, but if we ever was to did that, they’d worm us. I gua-rawn-tee.”
In the physical world, the newborn is a sponge. He or she learns so much in their early years. Everything is exciting.
Scientists can explain the physical world differences as the person ages, but, in reality, some folks quit learning after a while and others keep going. The continuing learner may not have fireworks explode with each new discovery, but they enjoy learning new things.
In the spiritual world, the new reborn is somewhat a sponge. He or she learns so much in their early years. Everything is exciting.
When the cross-bearing hardships hit, the believer learns a lot. Sometimes those lessons have the wrong kind of fireworks explode – job loss, death in the family, a global economy that tanks. The true believer will glorify God even in hardship, or maybe soon after if they are prone to sulking a bit – that may be part of the growth process – realizing God had His protective hand on you all along.
And if you get older, the bones don’t hold up as well. The muscles don’t move as well. Like a lickin’ pot hound, your best Olympic activity is “relaxin’ on the couch.” Like the lickin’ pot hound said, if you reacted as you did in your spiritual youth, your Christian friends would wonder if you had gotten into the ceremonial wine or forgot and took a double dose of your rheumatism medicine.
But, when you are in your golden years and you have that special moment in prayer when the Holy Spirit gives you a spiritual high-five, you might not be dancing on the outside, but you might just close your eyes, lean back in your chair, and imagine Jesus smiling and the angels dancing for you.
What is required?
My broken record will always mention prayer, Bible study, and being with Christians who share at least some of your interests. What else? Tell your story. Serve God in the ways that fit your physical, mental, and spiritual capabilities – those capabilities of the moment, not the mold that others try to force you into. And be willing to let go and follow God’s plan. Simply, you must plant your seed and let God do the rest.
Have you found your mission? Do you have a warm feeling every time you think about it? Can you close your eyes and see the angels dancing?
Soli Deo Gloria. Only to God be the Glory.