This autumn I have found conkers have renewed my joy of creation. There is nothing humble about a conker and yet their familiarity perhaps makes us forget their awe and wonder - perhaps reflecting our wider ability to take our world for granted.
It all started in early September when I found a solitary conker in our cul de sac where there is a large horse chestnut tree. I picked it up and thought about it being the first of many to come. I then noticed its outer green spikey shell was also on the floor and I picked up the three parts and put them around the conker. I was somehow touched by the beauty and intricacy - the protection the spikes offered to predators who would steel the conkers, the way that the shell split open to let the seed - which is what a conker is - lest we forget - escape. Such balance such beauty.
Then as days went on I would see more conkers each day and how each one was unique - slightly different from each other. I cherished even more when I would find a conker still attached to part of the shell - beauty and beast in one picture.
One day latter in September, on a windy day there was a deluge of conkers as the tree released its cargo of potential progeny. Again I was struck by the fact that without the wind many of the conkers would be left on the tree. I found one such brown wrinkled and gnarled example, sheltered from the wind by the wall - the green spikey outside had become a dried out brown with a blackened conker peaking through.
There are also conker trees at St Katherines Loversall, and while I was down there I noticed the squirrels gathering up and hiding as many conkers as they could. They buried many - and I thought if the squirrel forgets a conker, I bet that it may germinate and grow into a tree itself. Again I was struck by how creation interacts and is interdependent.
Of course as we focus on the conkers it is easy to forget that in spring time the conker tree is full of delicate white flowers with a touch of pink! The little flowers forming a cone pointing upwards. These become the seeds - the conkers. Now like all seeds their many purpose is to die so that a new plant grows. and as jesus says:
“Truly, truly, I say to you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it bears much fruit.” (John 12:24)
If the conker is planted in the garden, what happens? At first nothing; but then it takes in moisture from the soil and starts to swell up. Finally the old shell cannot contain the new growth, it splits open and the new life emerges.
When we die to ourselves and live for God and are obedient to him, not only does he bless us and guide our lives but he also blesses others through us – something of his beauty shines through us. Each of us has met people whose lives inspire us. We see God at work in them. God can use us in the same way. He wants to make your life fruitful. Will you let him? It is the principle of the buried grain. Only by burying our obsession with ourselves can we hope to live a full and fruitful life.