“Truly, truly, I say to you: unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it bears much fruit.” This is what Jesus said in John 12:24.

This verse leads up to a revelation by Jesus to the disciples that He will die on the cross. We all have our crosses to bear. For most of us in this community, those crosses include fertility challenges and loss.

Dying to Self

The cross is our sacrifice, and the means by which we die to self. Dying to self is not just a practice we trot out at Lent and put away at Easter along with the egg and bunny decorations. Dying to self is how we use the cross – the way we live it out. It’s a daily thing. It requires trust to believe that we will live through this practice and still be ourselves. Maybe we won’t, but maybe that’s the whole point of dying to ourselves. Dying to ourselves could be the key to becoming more ourselves than we were before –  not a better version, but more authentically who we really are.

Continuing with the seed metaphor and the grain of wheat, dying to self – falling to the earth – requires surrendering to the soil. Surrender requires two things: trust, and someone or something to which to surrender. There’s a huge difference between surrendering and giving up. Giving up requires only an act of will. Surrendering also involves an act of the will – but instead of merely ceasing to try, surrendering means we give ourselves into the power of another.

If surrender requires “another” to whom or to which we surrender, the soil into which the wheat falls, who or what is that soil? What is it like, this soil into which we are surrendering? As with so many things: it depends. It depends on us, on where and to whom we choose to surrender. In our fertility challenges, we could choose to surrender to medical science, to adoption processes, to God, or to some of each; the answer is as varied as we are. Do we really trust the one we surrender to, or are we hedging our bets and continually “un-surrendering”, trying to change our soil, so to speak – taking back our white flags?

Bloom Where You Are Planted

When I moved fourteen hours away from home and all I’d ever known, I was given a pillow with the words, “Bloom where you are planted”. That pillow has given me so much comfort and inspiration in the years since. I have plumped it, displayed it, thrown it, and sobbed into it. Blooming and bearing fruit require surrendering to the soil. A grain of wheat can only bloom and set fruit in one kind of soil: the soil where it is planted. The same is true for us.

In the Gospel, Jesus tells a parable about soil types; while that parable has great value, the only types of soil we need to consider are the soil where we are and the soil where we are not. It’s not the seed’s job to till the soil, to provide or enrich the soil, or to do anything at all but surrender to it, and today we are seeds. Those other tasks are necessary; but even for the farmer, there comes a point when all that can be done is to surrender and trust. Only God can make a seed grow, and today, we ourselves are the seed. A seed clinging to its identity as a seed will remain only a seed; it will never bloom, and eventually it will rot.

Building Trust

How to build trust so we can surrender? Let’s consider how we build trust with another person: by spending time together, by “proving” our reliability to one another (e.g. “you said you would, and you did”), and through the evidence of others in our larger community who know the person.

How do we apply this to God? We spend time with Him through prayer, we recognize prayers that He has answered, and we hear the evidence of the community of believers.

Prayer is conversation with God. It’s one of the ways we spend time with Him. As with the other people in our lives, we both talk and listen in these conversations. Recognizing answered prayers can be challenging, but it’s a huge part of building trust. A few years ago, someone suggested that I practice gratitude daily, for my emotional well-being and to improve my ability to sleep. Since I like sleeping but couldn’t, I tried it. I started small: did the sun come up today? I said, “thank you.” Did I pray the Our Father today, asking for my daily bread? If I ate, I said “thank you,” because it was an answered prayer.

After a while, when I’d formed the habit and gotten beyond struggling to find three things to be grateful for, and beyond the snark of “did the sun come up today”, I started noticing, really noticing, answered prayers. I mark those with an asterisk in my journal. As a result of noticing these answers to my varied prayers, my trust in God has grown, as has my sense of contentment (and ability to sleep). I have more peace with where I’ve been planted, and I’m blooming there.

For community, surround yourself with people who support you and your faith. Do you really trust the human being who your friends always bad-mouth? I have trouble doing that, even though I strive to make my own judgments. Surrounding yourself with other believers isn’t always easy, though. Go to church. Try to get involved and connect with the people there. Check out the different ministries. It seems obvious, but it really does help, and it alleviates isolation and loneliness, too. It’s also remarkable for tilling the soil of our Faith so our flowers can bloom and bear fruit.

A Prayer to Share with You

Lord,

I trust You.

Because I trust You, I can surrender myself to You.

Because I can surrender myself to You, I can die to myself.

Because I can die to myself, I can live in You.

Amen.

Delsonora lives in Central Ohio and has been married to the best husband a woman could want for over a quarter century. She has a disability and was adopted as an infant. Delsonora loves pets, crafting, and food, and she thinks that coincidence is often a “divine hint”. Catholic from conception, she’s convinced that the faith is why, despite the prevalence of other options, she was able to be born.