Dead Seeds Bring Abundance

          I watched a moving video on FB this week of a young man in his mid-20’s, created by himself.  He has gone around to groups and schools talking about the effects of bullying and low self-esteem.  But in this video, he steps WAY outside of his comfort zone. 

The young man weighed 400 pounds during his high school years.  But since graduation he has become disciplined in his diet and exercise, to the point that he weighs under 200 pounds.  He talks about his continual pursuit to stay healthy, to lose a little more weight, and to become more comfortable and accepting of himself.

But after all of his incredible weight loss and improvement in health, he is dealing with a consequence that is scary and real.  As a result of his hard work and discipline, when he looks in the mirror, he sees layers of unsightly sagging skin hanging from his arms, his chest, and the stomach.

This brave young man who talks to teens weekly about the need to see themselves as lovable no matter how they look or act (having overcome his weight problem), has decided to video himself shirtless, to face his fear, and to walk the talk that he speaks in regards to accepting ourselves for who we are.  He admits to being scared as he records himself; recognizing that there will be people who make fun of him, who will type disrespectful comments, and that he may be judged by the ugliness of his body.  He feels ugly as he stands in front of the camera, but reaffirms that this was a necessary process to become both physically and emotionally healthy.

In my own sinfulness, I acknowledge that watching his video made me uncomfortable at first.  His appearance below the shoulders is unattractive.  And I prayed for God to forgive me for judging this young man on outward appearance.  My heart also broke for him as he explained his own inability to go to the beach without a shirt and his hesitance to consider relationships with women because of the fear of rejection upon exposure.

Jesus said, “I tell you the truth, unless a kernel of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains only a single seed.  But if it dies, it produces many seeds.  The man who loves his life will lose it, while the man who hates his life in the world will keep it for eternal life.  Whoever serves me must follow me; and where I am, my servant also will be.  My Father will honor the one who serves me.”

What I hear loud and clear within these verses is that when we do what we are supposed to, there will sometimes be negative consequences.  We all seek acceptance and at times may do or say whatever is necessary to be perceived as more acceptable.  It might actually be an addiction to some, feeling the need to be affirmed in actions for acceptance.  And in the need for approval, doing what is right might take second place to what brings us immediate satisfaction.

Do we have the faith to let go of pride, to die to ourselves?  As long as our focus is on the survival of our pride and ego, we will be unwilling to fully love or give to another.  To love another as ourselves pushes us to the uncomfortable edges of caring more about another person than our own acceptability or excess.

“The one who loves his life will lose it while the man who hates his life in this world will keep it.”  Our young man died to his pride and ego (to himself) by publically exposing his physical and emotional mess.  Whether he hears it or not, he will affect hundreds if not more lives through his vulnerability and courage.  Had he not made the video, his own effectiveness as a testimony to accept oneself as a lovable and acceptable person would have been limited.  He became a dead seed that will multiply.

“Whoever serves me must follow me; and where I am, my servant also will be.”  What does it mean to follow Jesus?   He went to a cross.  He tells believers to take up their crosses and follow him.  He was lifted up in front of people that did not believe in him; exposed and humiliated.  

Are we willing to walk the talk?  Does our life outside of Sunday worship agree with our proclamations and confessions within the worship hour...that we are nothing without Jesus?  Does our faith allow us to be exposed for who we are (like the young man), trusting that we are loved anyway? 

That is the freedom we have in Christ, recognizing our acceptance to him no matter who we are and what we’ve done.  We are loved, forgiven, and called to experience that freedom in our daily lives, especially in uncomfortable circumstances.  Amen.