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JAMES BEHRENS: Seeds offer a window into the mystery of God

Big problems seemingly require big solutions. History has witnessed the growth of problems and their accompanying solutions. The times in which we live offer some very telling examples. Global warming, lasting peace, a cessation of violence, the elimination of poverty on a global scale -- these and more seem to demand solutions that are as large and as comprehensive as the problems themselves.In addition, everything these days can only seem to work via a group effort. The work of any individual must be absorbed into ever larger groups -- be these groups corporations, self-help groups or political action groups.

Yet there must be a start, and a very significant one, with the seemingly small and insignificant. What is hardly noticeable can, upon closer examination, have the power of the mighty and the big.

In one of her books, Annie Dillard writes about many mysteries of nature -- taking these as stepping stones to the threshold of the big mystery that is God. Some of the things she takes in with her watchful gaze are seeds. She writes of the incredible overabundance of them. From plant seeds to human seed, billions are released and very few make it. It would seem that the largesse has a lot to do with guaranteeing that life goes on.

Each seed has a journey to make, some by fate, others by happenstance. A gust of wind or the ingestion by a bird can carry a seed way off its normal course. But in the grand design of evolution, what may seem waywardness is in fact the right, the intended direction. Detours are somehow made straight -- life is bestowed in a far- off field and it flourishes.

Jesus compares the Kingdom of God to a mustard seed. In another passage, He says it is the smallest of seeds. And still, in another gospel, He emphasizes the growth that takes place when the sower sleeps. The work of God has little to do with our attentiveness.

The air is filled with seeds that will never find a home and grow, at least not in the way that was apparently intended for them. But they do not go to waste. Nature finds other uses for them. It is, for the most part, hidden from view, as if all done by magic. Out of all that is scattered, laid waste and seemingly lost, there emerges life. Such loss may be the very conditions for life to come forth and grow.

The contrast between one tiny seed and the magnificence of the tree that it will become is startling. The tree will become a home for birds and, perhaps, a generous amount of shade for a weary traveler.

These things are all around us, living and wondrous signs of a world that is here and that is yet to come, growing exponentially, wasting nothing, even while we sleep.

Father James Stephen (Jeff) Behrens, O.C.S.O., serves at the Monastery of the Holy Spirit, 2625 Ga. Highway 212 S.W., Conyers. His email address is james@trappist.net.