Updated: Jun 27, 2021
Walking down our country road the other day, I looked down and saw hundreds, no, thousands of those maple seeds that come with wings for flying scattered along the gravelly edge. Two or three maple trees hang over that part of the road. Similarly, as I walked our dog down the untended hillside heading down to the lake, I observed dozens of miniature oak trees springing up. They do this every year. That is because the oak trees drop an endless supply of acorns every year. And eventually, I cut them down when I trim the vegetation with a weed wacker.
Why do they produce so many? Of the thousands of maple seeds and acorns in our little corner of the earth, perhaps one in a thousand, or one in ten thousand will actually become a tree! The rest are run over, smashed, eaten, or if they sprout, are cut down. Likewise, notice that milkweed fluff? It’s full of seeds that get wafted away on the wind, traveling to places where they get stuck in a fence, or rolled into balls of fluff and run over on the road. Wouldn’t it be more logical and efficient to produce just a handful of maple seeds and a few acorns, dropped in the right places so they could be assured of growing up into trees?
Animals also often overproduce. A friend mentioned recently that last year a pair of ducks hatched a family of seven cute little ducklings near his home. Then he added that within a few days, five of the little tykes had disappeared. They were probably food for a turtle or maybe a northern pike. He said eventually only one of the ducklings survived to grow up.
This marvelous oversupply of seeds, or tiny individuals becomes a smorgasbord for other living things. Uncounted thousands of tiny fish are eaten by bigger fish that we in turn love to eat. Someone will tell us that is why there are ga-zillions of insects hatched every year, most of them to be eaten by birds or fish, or bats. I do wish our bats and purple martins would eat a few more mosquitoes!
Perhaps some naturalist or biologist understands this massive effort at overproducing. However, I find it mysterious. I think of all the energy that goes into the oak tree producing thousands of acorns that will get run over on the road, or hollowed out by some tiny beast, leaving the shells in odd places in our garage or scattered outdoors. The positive side of all this seeming waste is that we, like the animals, benefit from it. Maybe that is God’s plan. One grain of wheat can produce eight or more heads with more than 40 seeds per head. A single kernel of corn can produce a stalk with 600 kernels per ear. That is why people nearly everywhere focus growing wheat, rice, or corn, and look to them as food sources.
Jesus seemed to understand this waste, this profligacy of nature. He told a parable about a farmer who spread seeds with carefree abandon. Some fell on a hard, dry roadway, some among weeds, some in poor soil, some on rich soil. It appears that the majority of his seeds were wasted. Yet the result was a richly multiplied harvest! (Matthew ch. 13)
I’m beginning to think of this kind of living as casting “seeds of opportunity,” taking extra effort so we don’t miss any opportunity where we ourselves may be signs of the Kingdom, givers of encouragement, showing God’s love, and sharing his good news. Those extra moments when we pay attention to people, notice their needs, and offer even a small gesture of good will, might make all the difference for someone whose day may otherwise be dull or burdened. So, we, like wise trees, or friendly stalks of wheat, scatter many extra seeds of kindness that, even unknown to us, may provide sustenance for someone who is hungry. In God’s economy, nothing is wasted, and no opportunity is missed. That’s the good news.
© 2021 Stanley Hagemeyer