A seed and a tree
Jesus told this parable in Mark 4:30-32.
What shall we say the kingdom of God is like, or what parable shall we use to describe
it? It is like a mustard seed, which is the smallest seed you plant in the ground. Yet
when planted, it grows and becomes the largest of all garden plants, with such big
branches that the birds of the air can perch in its shade.
A study I am reading highlighted these verses recently. I have been pondering them ever since.
Imagine a small seed. Without any warning or explanation, a farmer plants it in the ground. From the seed's perspective, it does not make any sense why the farmer would do this. It is dark in the ground. And dirty. And lonely. The seed saw so much potential for itself when it was in a bag with other seeds and light all around. The bag would shake and the seed would move around a bit, happy and excited with its current state. Why did the farmer want to change that? The seed had its entire life ahead, and now this ... this was not what it envisioned in the future.
At first, the seed tried to use some old-fashioned Christian encouragement for itself. Well, I guess this is what God wants for me. Sigh. He must have something planned. Sigh. All things work together for good. Big sigh. Often used phrases that, although Biblically accurate, are not compassionate to the human emotions of the moment. Words that sometimes come out of the mouth but not out of the heart.
Over time, however, the seed reminded itself that it trusted the farmer. Even though it did not understand why this happened or what the future held. The seed believed the farmer knew things that it did not. And the tiny seed began to submit. To relax a little. It stopped struggling against its own hard shell. It found comfort in the soil around it. The darkness didn't feel as oppressive. The occasional moisture was not as disgusting. Even the earthworms wiggling by were not as unnerving. Given options, the seed would have never chosen this situation for itself but, admittedly, the seed was learning some things about itself here in the quiet ground.
And then something began to change. It was a very subtle change and not easily identifiable - even by the seed itself. I can't explain it, but I just feel different, the seed thought. A little more time passed and the seed again said, I think I'm growing. I am not sure what has changed, but I am not the same.
The growth did not happen overnight. Day by day, it was impossible to measure. It took a lot of time, but eventually the seed knew it was not a seed any longer. Somewhere in the dirt, the dampness and the darkness, when the little seed felt like it was dying, it had grown into a large tree. Although the seed did not think of itself as a tree, it knew it was completely different. And, admittedly, it liked itself better this way. The seed - now the tree - had a beauty it did not have before. It had a purpose it did not have before. It had a perspective it did not have before.
And something about the tree's presence and character attracted others. The birds wanted to nest in it. The squirrels wanted to scurry near it. The people enjoyed its shade, its flowers and its fruit.
The farmer knew the planting would be hard for the seed. He knew it would be a long process. But he also knew what would happen if the seed submitted. The farmer knew that something beautiful could grow out of something really, really hard.
And that is what the kingdom of God is like. A small seed that is planted in the ground. Yet when planted, it grows and becomes the largest of all plants, with such big branches that the birds of the air can perch in its shade. Big, beautiful trees that reach up toward heaven and out toward others are more effectual for the kingdom than a bag full of seeds. Even if the seed has to die before it can grow.
So, where are you in the growing process? Are you content to stay the same as you have always been? Are you trapped in the hard ground, struggling to find a way to the surface? What would it be like to submit to the farmer's plan? Are you willing to change? What could happen if you did? Or maybe you feel yourself growing already. Are you grateful for the dirt and the darkness now? Do you have fruit to offer that you never would have developed without the difficult season of planting?
Can you say ... Here I am, God. Grow me into something beautiful for you.