Seed Scarification and Fruitfulness

When we moved into this house, two years ago, one word kept ringing in my ears, weaving it's way through my prayers: Fruitful. 

It felt like we were entering this new season, a season of putting down roots and actually producing fruit. Bryan was experiencing a rare season of health, a break from cancer treatments, and everything in me whispered "fruit is coming". Good is coming. Life is coming. Abundance is coming. Claim the land, it's for you and it's flowing with milk and honey. Fruit is coming. 

It was a whisper too sweet to be believed, so I held it close to my chest. And I dreamed about a garden, a manifestation of fruitfulness. 

Just after we moved in Bryan ended up in the hospital. I came home one day from picking the kids up from school and found him with a sudden high fever and a bright red rash spreading quickly across his torso. I rushed him to the ER. He ended up spending four days in the hospital and being on IV antibiotics for two weeks. 

It wasn't the kick off to our season of fruitfulness that I had envisioned. 

Slowly though I started to plant little seeds. A gathering of friends here, a stepping out in faith there. I started teaching yoga again, both in our home and at a studio. I wrote. I dreamed. I played with business ideas that mostly died or got buried deep underground. 

At the beginning of 2017 Bryan's cancer started growing again. Fast and ferocious, it ravaged. 

I bought a garden bed and asked my friends to bring bags of dirt, rather than presents, on my birthday. I planted seeds. They died. I planted more seeds. They grew...and then they died too. I planted more seeds. They stayed alive, but never grew bigger than seedlings. 

We thought we were going to have to move for Bryan to get the treatment he needed. Leave this house before barely tasting the season of fruitfulness I thought God had been leading us into. 

I bought transplants and placed them tenderly in pots. By some tiny miracle a few managed to hold on to life. 

Bryan's treatments finally started to work. It felt like he was brought back from the dead. 

Friends left a garden of potted plants on our door step. In celebration. In faith. 

And I planted more seeds. A few of these lived. They grew. Slowly. So slowly. So much more slowly than they should have. But four months later they are still alive and we are still here. We've eaten lettuce leaves I grew. Only a few, but it happened. 

And in the still beginning days of 2018, I built more garden boxes and planted more seeds. Thaddeus built a rope swing. My yard is green with mallow and clover, growth and growing things. 

And I started a new job, hesitant and shaky, uncertain of my place and unclear of my role, but still showing up. Doing my best to meet whatever is asked of me. Putting into practice random hobbies and hidden skills. Planting seeds, curious where they will go. 

I'm hearing again the whisper I heard two years ago when this house first became ours: "This will be a place of sweet fruit." 

And I'm thinking about seeds. 

Did you know some seeds have to be scarified before they can grow? They need to be broken down, injured, hurt, before they can thrive. This scaring can happen naturally from the roughness of nature and the acidity of an animals stomach, or it can happen by the hand of a gardener who runs rough sandpaper over the seed. 

Other seeds only grow after passing through extreme conditions. They need both periods of cold and periods of warming up again in order to sprout. They need to be planted early and wait, long and still, through the cold winder in order to break out of their shells. Or, by the hand of a gardener, they need to be forced into the chill of the fridge to shock them into growth. 

Tonight I came across this quote from Richard Rohr that I think lights the way to something these seeds are trying to teach me: 

"Pain teaches a most counterintuitive thing: we must go down before we even know what up is. In terms of the ego, most religions teach in some way that all must 'die before they die.' Suffering of some sort seems to be the only thing strong enough to both destabilize and reveal our arrogance, our separateness, and our lack of compassion. I define suffering very simply as 'whenever you are not in control.' Suffering is the most effective way whereby humans learn to trust, allow, and give up control to Another Source. I wish there were a different answer, but Jesus reveals on the cross both the path and the price of full transformation into the divine."

The image of a seed buried has long been close to my heart, but these new images of a seed scarified and chilled through temperature extremes, these images speak something new to me about the path to fruitfulness. 

And, perhaps, they show me the last two years in this house - years I wouldn't mark by fruitfulness - in a new light. 

I hope the scaring is over. I hope the chill of winter's wait is turning to the warmth of spring. I hope this year and season is one of sprouts and fruit, both in our tangible garden and in our lives. 

But I don't know. Bryan has another scan on Friday and as always things could look radically different for us after this scan than they do today. 

I hear "fruitful" on the wind and, though I trust the voice, I know tomorrow could easily be as dry and still as a barren seed. I don't know what's coming, but I think I'm beginning to experience something new for me, a new trust, a new understanding that there is fruit coming whether spring starts today or the winter is longer and colder than I expect. There is fruit coming from my life whether it comes tomorrow or whether I still have years of being scarified and digested in the belly of The Holy Dove. 

There's a new trust that something good is coming out of my life. So I'll keep pushing forward. Sometimes waiting, sometimes working, always planting more seeds. 

Always planting more seeds.

Grace and peace,

Bethany Stedman