Seeds of Life
Well, autumn has officially just concluded, and I loved it. It’s a beautiful time that always reminds me of my wife, who is an alumnus of Harvest and whose Japanese name, ‘Aki’, translates to ‘Autumn’.
Each year autumn forces us to face an extraordinary tension. As the landscape begins to suffer and die it does so in the most beautiful way. It produces the most vivid colours and memorable scenes that have God’s signature written all over them. This should not be surprising—after all, God ordained the seasons, he created this cycle of life (Gen. 1:14; Ps. 104; Ecc. 3:1-2).
The suffering endured during the autumn months not only ensures the future of the plant itself but also of the life around it. The decaying leaves provide the nutrients necessary for other and new plants to flourish. Indeed, the decay of flora and fauna provides the nutrients necessary for all life to flourish because the fauna food chain is ultimately dependent on plants for food. Notice that this cycle is implied as already at play in Gen. 2:15. Jesus even uses this cycle to explain his own suffering, which would ultimately bring new life to all creation (Jn. 12:23–24).
This brings me back to my wife. Aki (i.e. Autumn) grew up in Japan with no Christian relatives. Aki was a young adult when her mum became a disciple of Jesus and started running a home group at her house. When her mum invited her along she began attending—but more out of love for her mum than any sincere interest in Jesus. However, one of the other ladies who attended (let’s call her Kumi) was a mature Christian who had been diagnosed with a terminal illness. For many months the group prayed for Kumi’s healing as Aki watched in astonishment at how, although Kumi’s condition only worsened, her joy did not fade and her peace only grew.
Eventually Kumi was placed in palliative care at a hospital where people went to die. When Aki visited her she was horrified by the fear and anger that engulfed the hospital, often manifesting in screams and wailing by the patients and their loved ones. Only in Kumi’s room was there peace, a peace that passed all human understanding. Kumi’s intimacy with the Spirit was so strong and she was so sure of her future resurrection that she was actually able to impart joy to those who cared for her and visited.
And then, sadly, Kumi died.
Ultimately it was the beauty of Kumi’s life in the face of her death that was the catalyst for Aki to begin following Jesus. Aki’s life in Jesus then impacted our children and many others whom she has ministered to over the years and who have found life in Jesus because of her. The truth is, if Kumi had recovered, or had been healed, the chances of Aki coming to Christ at that time would have been very small. She would have likely written it off as a medical anomaly and continued her life as usual. As she died, the life of Jesus emanating from Kumi literally brought many others to life in Jesus, and continues to do so—just like autumn leaves.
Why do I tell this story?
This is the first blog? in a series on suffering and life in which I aim to stimulate our thinking with some observations from nature, the Bible and theology. The hope is that as we are stretched out of our comfort zones we may be able to think through our position(s) and consequent response(s) to suffering, creation, life, and death, and adjust them according to the holistic picture God presents. In this way, just like in autumn, we may better see the presence of God and spread his seeds of life even in the most tragic circumstances.
This post was written by Matthew Jarlett, lecturer of Harvest Bible College.