“. . . 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” (John 12:24)
Can you imagine what planetary life would be like if creatures were not mortal and all the organisms that have ever been born on earth had never died? Think of the amoebas, star fish, whales, dinosaurs, pre- humans, and humans all attempting to feed themselves with the limited resources of our very small planet! They are stacked with skyscrapers rearing from both land and sea to accommodate the billions upon billions of organisms created and procreated by the life process. That would be impossible. And, even if this were possible, it would not be a desirable quality of life.
Jesus talks of death, utilizing the imagery of nature in which death and life are always cycling back and forth, reminding us that a seed dies in the ground and comes up again with new life. And, how grateful we are when we think of something like the miracle of a single corn kernel that mushrooms into a tall stalk, reaching up to the heavens while stretching out its offering of ears of corn with kernels plentiful enough to delight a family at mealtime.
Yet in the Great Creator’s scheme of things, seeds are not the only elements of creation that face death, as we are dying all the time. We all lose about 100,000 cells per second, and we are fortunate in reproducing almost as many. Hence, healthy bodies are a constant cycle of dying cells and the rebirth of new ones. Some scientists suggest that the human body regenerates every seven years. Cells, however, that don’t die off in a normal cycle are a real problem. Such cells are more often related to diseases like cancer that can become problematic as they block healthy reproduction.
A failure to let go and let some things die can also be a spiritual disease, as well, as important new life can’t take place without some things dying. For instance, a failure to forgive can lead to an unhealthy mutation of a relationship as anger and bitterness ravage the spirit like a festering, growing tumor. Holding on to regrets can squeeze out hope before the energy of new life can be pumped through. Similarly, trying to control events and others can lead to frustration, excessive stress, and rock-bottom exhaustion that “stomps out” the “new” we would desire. Hence, forgiveness and letting go of control are extremely important spiritual exercises in the art of dying so that new life can abound.
Years ago the Denver Zoo had a difficult decision to make. They were offered the gift of a beautiful, large polar bear, but there was no existing room for the bear. At the time of the gift, the board of Directors was in the middle of a fundraising campaign to renovate the zoo. They changed the strategy to include a magnificent habitat for the polar bear in their renovation plans.
In the meantime, the bear was put in a small, temporary cage. The space was so small that the bear could take three steps, turn around and walk three steps back.
Because of unforeseen delays the construction took three years, but its new home was indeed grand: waterfalls, spaciousness, and caves. The polar bear entered its new home, looked around, took three steps, turned around, took three steps back, and turned around.
This can be a parable of human life and even complex organizations like the church. Be open to the possibility of new life!
“Unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains just a single grain; but if it dies, it bears much fruit.”
Myron F. McCoy