Truly, truly, I say to you, unless a grain of wheat falls to the earth and dies, it remains by itself alone; but if it dies, it bears much fruit.

John 12: 24

Life tends to have a hardening effect on people; we are born with a soft exterior that is open and receptive, but that same exterior is absolutely defenseless against all of the hurtful things that can come our way. In order to survive we rapidly begin to harden, to grow tougher and we develop a thicker exterior shell. Over time and through experience various parts of that shell become even harder, and it covers more than our exteriors, for we also learn to shield our hearts and our minds from situations and from people that might hurt or harmed us.

This is a very natural and truly rational process; no one likes to be hurt, and no one likes to be on the receiving end of repeated loss, rejection, and humiliation. Evil uses all of this negativity as a tool to drive people deeper into themselves and to keep us fearful and separate from truly open and loving relationships. Satan wants us to try to stand on our own, separate and isolated, and he encourages us to continue to harden our protective shells; he’ll even fill the bathtub with brine for us to soak in and bring the sandpaper towels to remove the remaining soft surfaces of our hearts. 

Jesus is saying that there is an alternative to increasing the toughness of our protective covering; He is saying that we do need to take a small step of trust but that the reward for that step is enormous. As we recognize the ways that we shield ourselves from developing and from growing in healthy relationships and as we seek to move closer to other people, Christ will begin to change us. He will provide the nurturing environment and the growth producing understanding and wisdom that we need to allow us to remove these walls of apparent security. The Spirit of Christ will protect our hearts and our minds while we are growing stronger.

There is beauty and there is abundance of productive life inside of everyone, and we all have shells that we have developed that are holding the fullest expression of these qualities captive. God is always delighted when we allow Him the opportunity to surround us in the richest soil and to feed us with the never ending water of His love. Then we can experience the joy of fearlessly living a life that is open, receptive, and connected through Christ to the opportunities and to the people that we encounter.