When you hold a tiny seed in the palm of your hand, it looks plain. Insignificant. Smaller than a grain of rice. But inside that tiny seed lies something uniquely beautiful that God is creating deep in the soil’s darkness. This past May, we planted seeds for Sanctuary’s community garden. After we had carefully pressed the seeds into soil in their small seed containers, there was nothing much to see—we began waiting for what seemed the most remarkable: tiny green sprouts emerging from soil. Except this year, I was aware that the remarkable often happens long before we ever see that first green shoot emerging…
One year ago May, we planted our community garden for the first time. As our garden filled with tomatoes, carrots, beans, peppers, brussel sprouts, and more, I was constantly reminded of how these plants were symbolic of new things God was creating in and around us: moments of his Kingdom in our Sanctuary community—God was growing beautiful seeds in each of us and in our relationships. Many
of our Sanctuary friends struggle in various ways: mental health issues, poverty, addictions, trauma, unhealthy relationships, homelessness, social disconnection, loneliness, and more. But there is also hope and resilience, healing, wanting better, and seeking joy. As the garden plants sprung up, and I witnessed the abundance of green filling the garden, it was a symbol for me of God’s faithfulness: “Behold, I am doing a new thing! Now it springs up; do you not perceive it?”
I thought I understood what God was showing me: the importance of celebrating and proclaiming these good things that I perceived with my very own eyes—the plants I could see growing in abundance. But then, this past winter, God showed me a deeper meaning of his promise of a new thing—a trust in what we could not see. During a season of darkness both for myself and a few of our Sanctuary friends, God felt far away. And with darkness often comes a time of questioning: where was God during the darkness? Where was he when we had lost hope, wrestled with grief, depression, and illness, and longed for family, belonging, renewed marriage, reconciliation, healing, forgiveness, and recovery?
In the midst of darkness, God showed me that he often does his very best work in a place we cannot yet perceive—under the heavy soil, where that tiny seed is held in the fullest darkness, and where no human eye can see. I began to think more deeply about God’s transformation in our darkness. For a seed to become a plant, it must first crack open and come apart; it must go through germination, deep in the darkness of soil. The seed absorbs water, and its coat swells and softens. The cells of the seed divide and the root grows down into soil, anchoring the plant and letting it absorb nutrients. The curved neck of the seedling emerges from the seed, pushing slowly up through the soil and finally into the light, where the first seed leaves open.
In our own human darkness, what feels like death can actually be life—a transformation of our heart and spirit that causes our own leaves to open fully. Perhaps a call to change, growth, healing, and deeper relationship with God. Or something else uniquely wonderful. But in the place where it feels like no light can reach, God is doing a new thing in us! This year, as we planted seeds, I finally understood that the waiting time—when seeds are below the soil’s surface and all we can see is plain, bare soil—is actually the most beautiful part. He is working in ways we cannot yet imagine or perceive. Without this waiting time, we would never have the chance to behold the new and remarkable things God is doing, to see them transform, take root, grow, and spring up, and to trust and celebrate the harvest that is coming.