by JoAnna Fannin
It’s been over two years since I sat in that parking lot overlooking the mountains, praying for the Father to speak to my heart. It was a dry, uncertain season. I knew that he was setting me up for a new beginning, but I didn’t know what it would look like, or if I wanted to surrender to it. He started showing me a picture. I saw a hand holding a seed. The seed was just sitting there, unplanted, and stagnant. I felt him tell me, “This seed represents you. If you remain as you are you will just be a dry, shriveling seed with no hope of further growth, or maturation.” Here is a response I wrote to the picture He showed me:
“The seed has to die before the roots can grow deep, and wide, able to properly nourish the shoot that will spring out of the ground and slowly push upward steadily becoming a tree that will stand firm through the ages, cycling through the seasons, producing fruit, and shedding it, swaying through the storms, spreading wide in worship… always standing firm only getting stronger with each season that passes. First the seed must be planted if it ever wants to be anything more than a seed. So, it welcomes the planting, and with the planting it welcomes death; death that leads to life. This death says, “I will be raised to life again; a life that is much more than the existence of a little seed. It is life that grows, a life that breathes, a life that gives. I will be a willing seed. Plant me Father, and let me embrace this death. I put myself in your hand, trusting in your tender care that will nurture me to life, true life. I will be the weak one. I will be the broken one. I embrace it all.“
This story does not discount past seasons of my life. The Father had already worked in mighty ways, and established things in my life that brought me to this place. However, it was a new season. He was inviting me to go deeper, and surrender to a new process along the journey. Not knowing what the planting was going to look like, or what the future held, I said yes to the planting. I said yes to the Planter. In that moment I didn’t need to know what kind of soil I was going into, or how the process would feel. I didn’t need to figure out how to plant myself or what to do once I was in the soil. I only had to trust the Gardener. Practically for me this ended up looking like a move across town, downsizing from a three bedroom house to a studio apartment in our friend’s home (with a one-year-old toddler in tow). It meant genuinely saying goodbye to a past season that had brought me a lot of growth, and healing. The goodbye required grieving, tears, and a bit of heartache. The new season also required me to open my heart to new things. There was new community to submit to, and invest in. There were new relationships to build, and lots of awkward, uncomfortable moments that come with that building. Mostly though, it just called for a lot of dying. The only way to embrace the dying was to look at Jesus, and see how he lived his entire life submitted to the Father. He didn’t hold onto his own opinions, or reputation. Instead he lived a life doing only what the Father told him to do in any given moment. For me that meant not only submitting to the Father, but submitting to the soil where he had clearly planted me. The soil was the people with whom he had surrounded me; the community in which he wanted me to engage.
The seed analogy came up again a few months later when I was wrestling with doubt, and struggling with the surrender. Basically, I was trying to be my own Gardener deciding what was best for me, which always leads to a swirl of confusion. In the middle of that cloud I heard someone say a phrase that has stuck with me ever since, “You have to planted in the soil in order to receive the health of the soil.” In my heart I had been trying to judge the soil (community), and decide if it’s the right soil for me. I had a very quick lightbulb as I looked back and saw how the Father had clearly chosen this soil, HE had planted me here. It was only in true surrender that I could begin to receive from the health that was already surrounding me. Receiving this revelation was just another step of dying to my own entitlements, and moving into genuinely trusting the one I claimed as Lord of my life. For my seed to even begin growing the tiniest tentacle it had to break apart and disintegrate into the soil. To state it as clearly as possible: In this season the Father, my gardener, placed me in the home, community, and town I was in so that I could die. For me it was planting time, and that means dying time. He was only asking me to embrace the place he had planted me, not to judge it, analyze it, or isolate from it. He wanted to break apart my entire hard shell (self-protection), to become one with the soil, so that I could soak in all the nutrients around me. It is not an easy process. It didn’t feel light, and freeing. The soil was dark, and felt suffocating. It was my natural self that couldn’t breathe. Every ounce of self-protection, fear, pride, and shame inside of me came out screaming. However, the Father didn’t submit me to this process to be cruel, he did it to continue uncovering, and revealing the woman he created me to be; a daughter, friend, and servant who fully belongs to him.
This path has only continued to unfold over the past two years. There are lots of details in the process that I can’t fit into this one blog. I will say that the fruits of the Spirit that manifest in my life, as I surrender, are very real and tangible. My own body, soul, and spirit attest to the change, as well as, the people close to me. The journey is still full of daily dying, and constant learning. It also requires vulnerability, confession and lots of repentance to the Father, and others around me. With each step I find myself moving deeper into his heart. The more I let go of my natural self, and her need to be in control, the more of his love, and freedom I experience. This includes not just getting more rooted in the Father’s heart, but also in the community where he has placed me. Any gifts he has given me are for the building of his body. My journey in this life is not about me, it’s about being an offering to the world around me. I abide in Jesus, and the Father tends to my heart as he desires. This frees me to only do the work the Father has given me to do. I don’t even have to figure it out, or rationalize it myself. I am able to submit to him, and the earthly authorities he has put in my life without fear, or judgement. I trust him; I listen to and obey his words. He sows, plants, and transplants in his way, and his time. I really don’t even know where I am in this growth journey, but I do know that my roots are in fact growing, and they’re stronger than they were last week. I am happy to be a seed, simply being a seed, in the care of the best Gardener the world can ever know.
Here are a few helpful Scriptures that I indirectly reference:
Psalm 1, John 12:24, Luke 9:23, Philippians 2:1-18, John 15: 1-17, Ephesians 4 and 5