Eastertide: Day 10
Possibly the most obvious sign of new life is that of seeds. Seeds, just in and of themselves, are, frankly, astonishing. If you hold a small seed of anything - vegetable, flower, tree - in your hand and look at it, it is really difficult to believe that hidden down there, out of sight, is the blueprint for something that will grow up into something entirely different. Not only does each seed have the blueprint or DNA to recreate itself, but it also knows exactly the order in which to do it. It also knows the time in which to do it. For example, a seed first sprouts roots, down in the unseen dirt. Next, it sends up a small sprout. Then, it focuses on growth. It doesn't get these steps confused and say, try to grow a flower before it has a strong stalk, or put down roots after it has grown a leaf. Everything is ordered for the best possible benefit of the health of the plant.
But there's one more thing to consider about seeds and nature in general, an idea that I came across quite recently in a book called The Desire of Ages: The Conflict of the Ages Illustrated in the Life of Christ. The author is a woman named Ellen G. White, who lived and wrote during the mid to late 1800s and since I had not heard of her before, I did some research and discovered that she was one of the founders of the Seventh Day Adventist Church, with her husband, James White. Ellen herself was a controversial figure, who reported having over 2,000 visions and dreams from God. Some historians have claimed that she was one of the more "important and colorful figures in the history of American religion." (Randall Balmer, 2000) The Smithsonian Magazine even named Ellen G. White among the "100 Most Significant Americans of All Time." She wrote thousands of articles and more than 40 books during the course of her lifetime, many of which are still in print. Her grandson and biographer, Arthur White, writes that Ellen G. White is the "most translated female non-fiction author in the history of literature, as well as the most translated American non-fiction author of either gender." So, even though we would not agree on all aspects of faith, certainly Ellen has some wisdom to share.
Ellen wrote these words in The Desire of Ages:
All created things declare the glory of God's excellence. There is nothing, save the selfish heart of man, that lives unto itself. No bird that cleaves the air, no animal that moves upon the ground, but ministers to some other life. There is no leaf of the forest, or lowly blade of grass, but has its ministry. Every tree and shrub and leaf pours forth that element of life without which neither man nor animal could live; and man and animal, in turn, minister to the life of tree and shrub and leaf. The flowers breathe fragrance and unfold their beauty in blessing to the world. The sun sheds its light to gladden a thousand worlds. The ocean, itself the source of all our springs and fountains, receives the streams from every land, but takes to give. The mists ascending from its bosom fall in showers to water the earth, that it may bring forth and bud.
Doubtless scientific discoveries would nuance Ellen's writings today, but nevertheless, what a fascinating concept. We often hear that creation reveals God, and we tend to think of this in terms of the grandeur, beauty and restorative ability of nature. Those are all true. But lets add the ministerial capacity of nature as well; its ability to take care of others through fulfilling its own purpose. Surely, that's one aspect that is very close to the heart of God. It reminds us to ask ourselves, especially in these days right after the Resurrection, the example of self-sacrifice par excellance - Is my life about serving others? Am I taking my place in the design of creation?