For several weeks now, long before the heat and light of spring is consistent and caring enough to have fully arrived, my wife has been nursing a wide array of seeds. Planted in small hummus cups that look, not surprisingly, for all the world like egg cartons, these seeds are palmed and protected from the inclement weather. They have of late found purchase as they reach for the sun streaming through our kitchen window. To the left are some sprouting sugar peas framed against the background of my neighbor's blossoming dogwood. I love the alpha and omega of this photo.
I dare you to overstate the mystery of seeds. On second thought, you can't, so don't bother trying. There's no mystery like seed mystery, something so contemptibly small stuffed with such incipient life. Seeds are being cast all around us: soybeans, cotton, corn and rice, faith, hope and love. They're too small to notice unless you're intent on finding them. They're profligate, with thousands more sown than take root. They're in the air, selflessly insistent that life continue only by virtue of attention to minute, often mute, beginnings, specks of intent planted and tended with a quiet resolve not to seem, but to be.
Maybe only someone as gifted, attentive and devoted as author Marilynne Robinson can capture this. You might want to grab another cup a coffee. Make sure you're comfortable enough to sit and savor this:
John Calvin says that when a seed falls into the ground it is cherished there, by which he means that everything the seed contains by way of expectation is foreseen and honored. One might as well say the earth invades the seed, seizes it as occasion to compose itself in some brief shape. Groundwater in a sleeve of tissue, flaunting improbable fragrances and iridescences as the things of this strange world are so inclined to do. So a thriving place is full of intention, a sufficiency awaiting expectation, teasing hope beyond itself (The Death of Adam 234, emphasis mine).
Jesus' life was a speck: short-lived, suspicious of birth, native son of a no-name hometown, executed as a criminal. His movement? Hardly auspicious, lasted a moment, with less than a dozen serious followers before he was arrested, practically no one after his arrest, unless you count a few women and one "Beloved Disciple" (which Jesus did, by the way). Maybe this is why he told so many stories about the perils and glory of farming. He lived with the full intent of seed and soil, and called us to the same conspiracy, to be both the lowliest of seeds and the most fertile of soils, vital connivers in the Divine-Human-World conspiracy that "teases hope beyond itself." Yet, because God always and unreservedly honors growth and health and all that is Good, True and Beautiful, this Jesus we sought to bury for good, ended up being planted by God. And we, if we have even a smidgen of love at in our lives, benefit from such lively risenness.
We have a choice in all this. We can cultivate the Love. Do all the ordinary, overlooked work, the hard stuff that best occurs in the wings, off-stage, that helps Love sprout and thrive. Conspire with the God who cherishes Love. Or, of course, we can choose to conspire in our own diminishment and bury it again. String it up, mock it, lock it up behind the rolled stone of our jaded and cynical hearts. Either way, the Lord of Life will figure out a way to turn our graveyards into gardens, our abandoned and bullied cities into beloved communities, and all our refuted and refused occasions for Love into seeds of life.
Try this. Turn off your computer. Step outside your house. Walk the streets of your neighborhood with the eyes of the Christ who is obsessed with seeds. Pray to see what you see, see whom you see. And maybe take with you this little excerpt from Robert Frost's "Putting in the Seed":
How Love burns through the Putting in the Seed
On through the watching for the early birth
When, just as the soil tarnishes with weed,
The sturdy seedling with arched body comes
Shouldering its way and shedding the earth crumbs.
Do this. See if you can see the seed of Love, how it burns to spring ever new, even now.