The Transformative Power of Suffering
A review of The Seed Who Was Afraid to Be Planted by Anthony DeStefano
+JMJ+ Let's face it, there's a lot of suffering in our world and, at one time or another, it affects our own lives or the lives of our loved ones and friends. It's difficult to wrap our brains around tragedy whenever it strikes. Why would such a loving and Almighty God allow such bad things to happen? It's a question we've all asked at one time or another and there are no easy answers. Suffering can be especially difficult for young children to grasp and so, when I heard about Anthony DeStefano's latest children's book that addresses suffering, The Seed Who was Afraid to be Planted, I couldn't wait to get my hands on it.
To briefly sum up the story: a seed is content and comfortable living in a drawer with other seeds and he fears being planted. However, a farmer does wind up planting him but, despite the seed's fears, he is surprised when he discovers that he has grown and transformed into something magnificent and beautiful. (Spoiler alert) the seed's suffering caused by the changes that take place ultimately leads him to a new and wonderful life where he finds far more meaning to his life than he has ever known.
Quite simply, this is a delightful little book. The pictures are enchanting. The story is told simply and sweetly and is gentle enough for young minds. However, it has also inspired deeper thoughts in my own mind as a parent. For my husband and me, books such as The Seed Who was Afraid to be Planted are the kinds we most enjoy reading over and over to our three children (ages 9, 6, and almost 3) because we all get something from it. By the end of this book, I was tearing up because the story spoke so deeply to my heart, and it led to a deeper discussion regarding some issues my family has been facing as of late – issues that have been difficult to address with our little ones.
This book couldn't have come at a better time for our family. Just last week, we suffered the devastating loss of a close loved one. My cousin (more like a little brother to my husband and me) passed away unexpectedly after suffering an epileptic seizure, and his death has been hitting us all hard. I am no stranger to tragedies and trauma. I have lived through a rape by a Catholic priest, the sudden death of my oldest brother, Matthew, as a result of a heart condition, cancer, and a heart condition that almost took my life last June. However, my cousin Joe's death is the first real tragedy that my children have faced, and explaining both suffering and death has been difficult. The Seed Who was Afraid to be Planted covers both these issues beautifully.
When it comes to suffering, we can all think of ourselves as the little seed. We feel comfortable and safe when things are going well. Suddenly, when we are thrown out of our comfort zone or experience pain, our whole world feels as though it's been turned upside down. Just like the seed, we feel afraid and alone and we don't always understand what's going on (or why). When we go through those dark times, we may feel discouraged or even despair. When "one more thing" comes along, we find ourselves throwing our arms up as we cry out to God, "Now what? I give up!" Personally, I have felt this way many times!
It is during these trying seasons of the heart that we must seek to surrender ourselves to God and put our faith and trust in Him. Don't get me wrong, we are only human and are still prone to worry, anxiety, and fear, but just a little bit of faith can change everything. Just a little bit of faith can lead us to a little more hope, a little more understanding, a little more gratitude, a little more joy, and a little more peace. Just a little bit of faith has the power to open our minds and hearts to God's “glimmers of grace,” God's gifts for us (however small) and signs of His love and presence. God knows just what we need and when we need it. All we need is "faith the size of a mustard seed" and God will take that little bit of faith and multiply it, and we will experience His love, grace, mercy, and goodness that is beyond measure. Our lives will go from ordinary to extraordinary! Just as the seed discovers, true freedom comes from following God's plan. The seed's old, comfortable life is traded in for an even greater life as a beautiful tree, and it is only after he's been pulled out of his comfort zone that his fear is erased. He finds joy, peace, and freedom. The same can be true for us when we suffer. The fact of the matter is, sometimes we don't understand God's plan, but we are called to trust.
Sadly, suffering became a part of our world when our first parents chose to use their free will to commit sin. Because sin entered the world, we are all born with the stain of original sin on our souls, and we all experience suffering in one way or another. Death was also a result of original sin and, at some point and on some unknown day and at some unknown hour, we, too, will face death. This has been a difficult topic for our kids to understand especially recently. They've been full of lots of questions about life after death and our daughter was particularly upset about Cousin Joe's body being buried beneath the ground. Death can be (understandably) such a scary and dark concept especially for children. This story was helpful in explaining to our children that, while Joe's physical body may be gone (just as my oldest brother's body is gone), the soul lives on; the souls of those who honored God with their lives blossom into something more beautiful and magnificent than any of us can even possibly begin to imagine. Dying is not the end but, rather, the beginning of a new, everlasting life. Only in Heaven will we find true and lasting joy, peace, and freedom, and we pray for the souls of all our deceased loved ones and friends that they, too, may experience the glory of eternal salvation.
The Seed Who was Afraid to be Planted is one of those books every family is going to want to add to their book collection! All of Anthony DeStefano's books are wonderful ways to introduce difficult issues to children in a gentle and simple way. This book is especially helpful to keep on-hand for when difficult times arise. It is a beautiful way to explain to children that life isn't perfect; sometimes we feel frightened and alone but God always has a greater plan for us, and He will always bring us out of the darkness. Through the transformative power of God, our suffering will be made into something beautiful.
“For I know well the plans I have in mind for you...plans for your welfare and not for woe, so as to give you a future of hope.” Jeremiah 29:11
The Seed Who was Afraid to be Planted was released from Sophia Press and is available for purchase at https://www.sophiainstitute.com/products/item/seed-who-was-afraid-to-be-planted-the
Disclaimer: this post is in no way sponsored by Sophia Press. I received a copy of the book in exchange for my honest feedback and am simply sharing my thoughts in this blog post.