Monday, June 23, 2008
A few weeks back, after a lush spring, the two mature maple trees that grow in front of our house shed their seeds. Our son spontaneously called them “helicopters” and took to tossing them into the air and then gleefully watching them spin down. (This must be a universal, archetypal response for five year olds when they encounter maple seeds, because no one had to tell him that they were “helicopters” and no one had to show him how to fly them. But I digress….) As the helicopters fell, they stood up among the grass in great numbers. Because of the excessive rain that has plagued the Midwest, I didn’t get around to mowing the yard for about 10 days. And when I finally took a close look at the yard under the maple trees, what I saw amazed me.
All over the lawn, where the seeds had previously fallen, there were hundreds–possibly thousands–of tender, tiny maple tree seedlings sprouting up above the grass. Miniature maple trees with tiny maple-shaped leaves canopied over the grass. It was miraculous: the seeds fell, the rains came down, and the growth just happened. And who knows: if I had let all those tiny seedlings just grow without intervention, while some of them would not have made it, eventually we would have had a maple forest in our front yard and a thriving maple syrup business going on in the garage!
And it seems that those maple trees are an example for those of us who follow Christ. The mature maples produce abundant seeds, which are scattered all around them in the hope that some of them will grow to maturity and replace the parent tree. Likewise, we who are mature in our faith should be bursting with spiritual seeds, planting the message about Jesus and sowing his love wherever we are–in our neighborhoods, at our jobs, in our families–in the hope that God will nurture the seeds and bring many to a saving knowledge of Jesus Christ. Because you never know when a seed may take root and grow to maturity. You never know who is waiting to hear good news that they can experience abundant life in Christ. You never know who might blossom and flourish as a disciple of Jesus, given the opportunity.
In his first letter to the Corinthian Christians, Paul wrote about the role of the apostles:
What, after all, is Apollos? And what is Paul? Only servants, through whom you came to believe—as the Lord has assigned to each his task. I planted the seed, Apollos watered it, but God has been making it grow. So neither the one who plants nor the one who waters is anything, but only God, who makes things grow. The one who plants and the one who waters have one purpose, and they will each be rewarded according to their own labor. For we are God’s co-workers; you are God’s field, God’s building. 1 Corinthians 1:5-9 TNIV
Sometimes we may be shy about sharing our faith, and other times we may feel the pressure to bring others to faith. But Paul gives us a reality check here: we Christians are just workers in the field, planting seeds and watering the crops. But it is God–in his mysterious power–who softens hearts, who heals old wounds, who cleanses the stain of sin, and who nourishes young seedlings into towering, mature trees that are able to withstand the storms of life.
We would all do well to imitate the maple tree: in the right season, we must drop our seeds, trusting in God’s power to bring about new growth.
(Disclaimer: Spiritual analogies can be carried only so far; I’m not sure if there is analogical significance to me mowing down all those poor, defenseless seedlings with the lawn mower.)