There is a definite moment at which the seed is ripe for being liberated–that is the first thing we notice: and at that moment it is absolutely ready for its work. The storing of the nourishment for the young plant began on the very day when the new life entered the flower long ago, and it is finished now. All prepared too are the hooks, or spikes, or gummy secretions, needed to anchor it to the ground, and so to give a purchase to the embryo shoot when the time comes for it to heave its tombstone and come out to the light. Even its centre of gravity is so adjusted that, in falling from the sheath, the germ is in the very best position for its future growth. If it is torn out of the husk a day too soon, all this marvellous preparation will be wasted and come to nothing.
Can we not read our parable? How often we have had an impulse or a plan which we knew to be of God, with a flash of intuition, or with a gathering certainty: and the temptation has come to carry it straight off by ourselves, without waiting His time–the very temptation that beset the Master in the wilderness.
Oh! let us learn of Him the lesson of letting God’s seed-purposes ripen!–they can bear no fruit till they have come to their maturity: we shall but waste all He was preparing if we drag it out before its time. And only in a path in which we are learning to do nothing of ourselves but what we see the Father do, can we know when His hour is come. How accurately Jesus knew it! “I go not up yet unto this feast, for My time is not yet full come,” He said to His brethren–and yet in a day or two He was there. “Mine hour is not yet come,” He said to His mother, when it was only a question of minutes. And by what marvellous insight He recognised the dawning of that final “hour” when He was asked for by those nameless Greeks–a hint of the ingathering of the travail of His soul! God can give us the same Divine instinct, when He has weaned us from our natural energy and impatience. And when His hour has struck, the whole powers of the world to come will be set free in the tiny helpless seed. “One day is with the Lord as a thousand years.” He is a God worth waiting for!
And there is another thing closely linked with this patience in the seed-shedding. As we watch it going on in nature, we see how it is all done in cooperation with the forces at work outside itself. The wind knocks off and tosses away the dainty shutde-cocks of the scabious as they ripen one by one, and the pods wait for the hot touch of the sun to split them with the sudden contracting twist that sends the grains flying, like stones from a sling.
More wonderfully still we see this “working together” in the seeding of the cranesbill. The seeds stand together as they ripen, like arrows in a quiver, with their points downwards, and their feathered shafts straight up. When the time for action comes, the sun-heat peels them off, from below and above, so quickly that you can see them cue under your eyes, and turn into a spiral by their continued contractions. They fall, spike downward, by the weight of the seed, and the sun finishes the work he began. Closer still the gimlet winds, and as it does so it bores down into the hardest soil: and such is their strange power of penetration, as they are driven in, spite of all their weakness, that they bury themselves up to the very hilt, leaving only the last long curve flat on the surface. Then this snaps off, and leaves the head deep hidden. The spear-like grass you see opposite p. 40 follows the same rule: it is so sensitive to the heat that even the warmth of one’s hand will set it twisting and thrusting its barb in. Cannot we trust the God Who planned them, to give us arrows that will be sharp in the hearts of His enemies, and to drive them home? At each fresh adaptation of the plants to their aim, we hear an echo of the words of Jesus, “Shall He not much more clothe you, O ye of little faith?”
And the restfulness of waiting God’s hour for seed-shedding deepens as we learn to recognise the outward dealings of the Spirit as well as the inward, and watch the marked way in which He co-operates with the setting free of every seed as it ripens–how He brings across our path the soul who needs the very lesson He has just been teaching us–how the chance comes with perfect naturalness of reaching another over whom we have been longing. If our eyes are up, and our hands are off–if we learn to “wait on our ministering” like the seeds, in utter dependence on Him, we shall be able constantly to trace the Lord’s working with us, and we shall have done with all the old restless striving to makeopportunities–“We are labourers together with God.”
Yes, it all centres round that question of quietness. “Opportunity” is given to every seed in its turn, as they lie in their layers in the capsule, or side by side in the pod. Not one forces its way forward, or gets in the way of another. Look at the exquisite fitting in any seed-vessel that you pull to pieces: the seeds are as close as they will go, but fenced off from crowding on each other and hindering each other’s growth. He who packed them can be trusted, surely, with the arranging of our lives, that nothing may jostle in them, and nothing be wasted, for we are “of more value” to Him than these. If our days are a constant rush and hurry, week in and week out, there is grave reason to doubt if it is all God-given seed that we are scattering. He will give us no more to do than can be done with our spirits kept quiet and ready and free before Him.
Quiet and ready and free–that is another lesson that the seeds teach us. Off they go at a touch, at the moment when the inward preparedness and the outward opportunity coalesce. See the tiny corkscrews of the pink geranium in our meadow (a miniature of its blue brother the cranesbill). Look at the poise of them–and then at the sheaf of spears of this bit of grass, holding themselves freer still, and the downy head alongside, equally ready either to hold together or to fly with a breath … and then look at our lives and see whether that is their attitude towards the Holy Ghost. Is there a soul poise that corresponds?
Oh! the pains that God has to take to bring us to this happy, childlike “abandon,” equally ready for silence, or for saying or doing unhesitatingly the next thing He calls for, unfettered by surroundings or consequences. How much reserve and self-consciousness have to give way with some of us, before the absolute control passes into His Hands, and the responsibility with it! Then only can we know the “liberty,” the “boldness,” the “utterance” of Pentecost. “Whithersoever the Spirit was to go they went, thither was their spirit to go:” that is “the perfect law of liberty.”
Yes, and that brings us a step further in the teachings of the seed-shedding. Off they go now, “every one straight forward”–off and onward to the place appointed. Look at the golden plough of the wild oat, with every spike and hair so set that it slips forwards and will not be pushed backwards. Look at the hooks and the barbs that cling to anything and everything that passes by if only they can carry their seed away and away. Look at the balls and the wheels that roll before the wind, and the parachutes and baby shuttlecocks that sail upon it: they all have a passion for getting far off, and they only show us a few of the numberless devices by which the same end is reached in plants of all lands.
(From the book Parables of the Christ-Life)