In the same way, anyone who holds on to life just as it is destroys that life. (John 12:25a MSG)
These words have taken up residence in my head and heart for weeks now. I happened upon them once and was struck by them. Then they came around again and again. Different times, different locations. All with the same effect.
You see, I like my life to be “just as it is” – safe, expected, sure, routine. Don’t get me wrong. I love adventure, travel, beauty and wonder (mostly in expected, predictable doses). What I don’t like, though, is pain, loss, toil, intrusion.
I prefer relationships that are easy-going and undemanding. I love the sweet moments with my boy and wish he would stay small, curious and innocent forever. I get into the rhythm of a season of life and resist the next when it comes along.
When I pour effort into keeping my life just as it is in any area, I miss out. And so do those around me. Not just because of the specific adventures, experiences or relationships I miss out on. But because life itself is cut off, destroyed.
There’s a great image of this in nature. A seed. The master teacher, Jesus, knew this and shared it in this same passage.
Listen carefully: Unless a grain of wheat is buried in the ground, dead to the world, it is never any more than a grain of wheat. But if it is buried, it sprouts and reproduces itself many times over. (John 12:24 MSG)
There’s nothing novel about the idea above. My four-year-old can explain the life cycle of a seed. But have you ever thought about a seed as having its life cut off and destroyed? Until planted, it is kept from what it was meant to be. We don’t admire a seed for what it is but for what it can be.
There is also novelty in thinking about our lives in these terms. How many times do we admire life for what it is and yet don’t even consider what it could be? Have we unknowingly elevated our predictable, secure life over God’s intended flourishing of our lives?
I think it’s accurate to draw this statement from these verses.
If you hold on to your life just as it is, you can never flourish and grow as God intended.
What a different picture of life that gives. Control, routine, safety – they don’t actually help guide me through life. In reality, they stunt my growth and destroy the very life I am seeking. My world and life stay small, dry and hidden.
How then do we get real life? Life that grows, reproduces, expands and flourishes? Well, Jesus tells us that too.
But if you let it [life] go, reckless in your love, you’ll have it [life] forever, real and eternal. (John 12:25b MSG)
What do we do? We let go. Not in a cliché sense but in a very real and practical sense. We let go of avoiding pain and hurt and embrace the community God gives us. We let go of meeting expectations and follow God’s leading. We let go of pursuing ease and efficiency and do the hard thing over and over again.
We also love recklessly. Look up this word in the dictionary and here’s what you’ll find
to be utterly unconcerned about the consequences of an action
Who do we love? God and people. We love them without concern for what it will cost us. We love without a thought to how it will inconvenience us and intrude on our lives. We love deeply and for the long haul in spite of the heart break of inevitable loss.
And look what we find in the process. Life. Real life. Exactly what we were seeking but couldn’t ever find on our own. Life that never ends but simply continues on forever as it was meant to be.
Real life isn’t packaged up all nice and tidy. Success isn’t found by getting it right and living the dream. We are most alive when we are walking in step with the Father, letting go of what brings us comfort, recklessly pursuing relationship and opportunity with no thought to what it will cost.
I’ve lived life both ways – holding tightly and letting go. I’m here to tell you, as risky as it seems at the time, letting go and loving recklessly is always best. Life, joy, delight, meaning, hope – they all spring up naturally this way.
If you realize you’re holding tightly to something, here’s what you need to know:
It takes time to rejuvenate life once it’s been cut off. It takes time to reconnect to what is true and meaningful and real. Don’t give up too soon.
Jesus is the greatest and kindest healer ever. He longs to heal the wounds that led to your self-preservation efforts in the first place. Trust Him to do this.
Even a seed that sits on the counter can still produce a harvest once it’s planted. No matter how long you’ve held on, there is still real and abundant life for you once you let go.
So, here’s an exhortation: Embrace life. Not life as you want it to be. Not life that is easy and predictable, yet dead inside. But real life that is abundant and free. Life that is found by practically trusting God and recklessly loving. There’s no better way to live!
Here’s a short time lapse video of seedlings.
Observe how long it takes for life to be evident.
Notice the inevitable growth once life bursts forth.
Watch the movement of the seedlings as they grow. Don’t they appear joyfully responsive?
How does this help you envision your real and abundant life coming about as you trust God, let go and follow Him?