wheat“Unless a grain of wheat is buried in the ground, dead to the world, it is never more than a single grain of wheat. But if it is buried, it sprouts and reproduces itself many times over. In the same way, anyone who holds on to life just as it is destroys that life. But if you let it go, reckless in your love, you’ll have it forever, real and eternal.”

It’s Easter, the end of Lent. The purpose of Lent. Jesus gave the metaphor of the seed, and it seems an apt metaphor at the conclusion of this season.

In a conversation with one of my brothers yesterday, I described some of the things I had written. He challenged me with the question, “So you give up one belief or perspective, but what do you replace it with?” He gave some generational and personal examples of the consequences of rebelling against one thing without a clear sense of what the alternative is. “You take over the campus administration building. Then what?” Or, “You decide your parents don’t know what’s best for you. Then what?”

It’s the old Biblical story of casting out demons. Without something good to replace them, more demons come to fill in the space.

The “then what?” is never clear. That’s the frightening in-between. It’s the insect shedding its skin, leaving itself vulnerable until the new exoskeleton hardens. It’s the trapeze artist in mid air, arms extended. The in-between is never clear, never settled, but it is necessary.

That’s where the seed metaphor makes sense to me. The new life from the seed is not a completely new thing. The seed of wheat does not produce a corn stalk, or a baby squirrel. It produces a shoot of wheat, which then produces an abundance of wheat seeds. The plant is the next phase of what the seed was. It is the fulfillment of the seed.

The new plant is related to the original seed, but it is not the seed. It is much more. The unlearning I have written about and done in my own life is not an abandonment of my early learning. It is an extension of it. It is a sifting in order to keep what is useful and let go of what is not useful. Once the sifting is done, there is room for something new.

Stillness, being mindful of the moment, doing what I am doing (recurring themes over the past 6 weeks), these are my primary ways of sifting. With patience, these give me clarity about what to keep and what to let go.

If the seed were a conscious thing, it would require honest doubt to be buried, to be allowed to die. It would also need militant hope that something will eventually sprout.