I wear around my neck four charms: a pride triangle with quarter moon, a Chinese symbol for Year of the Monkey, a crucifix, and a mustard seed. People often ask questions about these charms, but the one that draws the most attention is the mustard seed. Many people remember either a relative who used to wear one, or possibly they had one at one time. And then there are those who want to know why I have that “seed thing” on my necklace.
I give the curious the short answer: it’s an amulet of faith, a reminder to me that if I have faith the size of a mustard seed, my faith has the potential to grow much, much larger. If I’m lucky, they might stick around to talk further and ask me more about my faith. However, most just nod politely and take the conversation elsewhere. But, for the benefit of those in the blogosphere, I’ll treat you to a bit more details behind this charm on my necklace.
My mom gave me this charm when I turned 16 years old. The inspiration for the gift came because the chaplain at my prep school had alluded to the parable in Matthew in response to some writing in which I had said that one of the only things stopping me from killing myself was the thought that God would somehow not love me for taking my own life. Interestingly, I had initially referred to God as my “worst enemy” in the essay…and then crossed it out to say “best friend”. My mom must have seen me looking up the gospel passage, or maybe I asked her about it. At any rate, she heard me and gave me a mustard seed charm on a necklace when I turned 16…a month after I had started seeing a psychiatrist to deal with my suicidal tendencies. This became an important touchstone for me, and rarely have I taken it off. It is symbolic of the one lifeline I had. And it has served me well in all tests and trials of the world.
So, how interesting to have the parable of the mustard seed in Matthew be “on the menu” at St. John’s…along with other passages from First Kings and Romans. In the First Kings reading, God gives Solomon the chance to ask what God should give him. And he asks for the ability to discern good and evil to aid him in governing the people. Not lots of money, or big armies to crush his enemies. He asks for wisdom. And for that God essentially says, “Right on! You get the idea, and here’s your wisdom.” How cool for a leader to ask for wisdom! How amazing to see God plant that seed in him.
Paul writes to the Romans:
“For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor rulers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.”
These are the words that water the mustard seed-sized faith and help it to grow. Because the more that I can accept that this is true, the more I can feel the roots sinking deeper. Nothing, save for me not believing in it, can separate me from an enormous abundance of love. No one, no “thing” can place a stumbling block between me and this love. And anyone who tries is in line for getting run over by a steamroller of Spirit.
The belief and unbelief part will have to wait for another entry. Stay tuned.