Understanding the Seed Self

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Unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it bears much fruit. He who loves his life loses it, and he who hates his life in this world will keep it for eternal life.

John 12:24-25

Our focus throughout the Easter season is on two seemingly incompatible terms: death and life. Generally speaking, we treat death as a negative and life as a positive. In the above passage, however, death is required to advance the expression of life. With seeds and plants, we understand this relationship. When we drop a seed into the ground, we do not mourn its impending death but anticipate its forthcoming transformation into a fruit-bearing plant. The experience is characterized by positive expectation.

In our spiritual endeavor, the seed self is our body-based identity, our life in this world. While John suggests we hate this life to gain eternal life, we should take this as an attention getting exaggeration intended to make a point. Everything about our earthly experience responds best to praise and acceptance. Dying to this seed self is not a rejection of it but rather an understanding that our true essence is something much more.

That Jesus referred often to familiar, agricultural metaphors to illustrate spiritual principles tells me he was not merely calling attention to himself but trying to make these principles practical to the average person. It is the same principle he discussed with Nicodemus when he spoke of the need to be born again. These also bring to mind the popular metaphor of the caterpillar’s transformation into the butterfly. In each case, we are acknowledging that a greater condition is poised to emerge from a presently existing condition.

You and I spend most of our time operating in and around our seed self-awareness. It is to our advantage to spend time letting go of the cares and concerns of this limited aspect and allow the truth of our eternal nature to shine its light into our awareness. Perhaps Paul said it best when he wrote, “Do not be conformed to this world but be transformed by the renewal of your mind …” (Romans 12:2). This is certainly a great summary of what the Easter story is all about.     

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