How much can we learn from the persistence and determination of nature? Recently I noticed a special televised program on the area of one of our national parks that had been devastated by forest fire last summer. Here and there, amid burned out stumps, was the birth of new life with green sprigs springing forth from the darkened soil.

Several weeks ago, as I was surveying a vegetable garden, I saw the small leaves of a cucumber plant forcing its way into the open air. The reason I took special note was that I had not planted cucumbers this year, and the small plant was the result of a persistent and determined seed that had been dormant in the weak ground for the entire winter. Last week, after I had tenderly nurtured and watered my little “volunteer” cucumber, I picked my first cucumbers.

What a promise of hope to the individual this truth is. From the forest fires of destruction and devastation, the believer can rest assured that even from the stump left from the fire, new life from God can spring forth, for the seed is present in the stump.

A survey made by the National Retail Dry Goods Association revealed the following results: 45 percent of the salespersons make one call and quit; 25 percent make two calls and quit; 15 percent make three calls and quit. That shows that 88 percent of the salespersons quit after making one, two or three new calls. But 12 percent keep on calling. They do 80 percent of the business. The 88 percent who quit after the first, second or third calls do only 20 percent of the business.

Japanese gardeners developed the technique of producing beautiful, decorative dwarf trees, or bonsai, deliberately stunting their growth. The roots are cut off, the branches and limbs cut back, and the trees are starved for soil, denied water and given only minimal sunlight. The art is to keep a spark of life in the tree but just barely. Such a tree may live for a hundred years in a teacup.

While such a dwarf tree is a work of art, perhaps the greater work is that mysterious quality known as life can be sustained in the tree, despite all of the destruction and devastation worked upon it through excessive pruning and the denial of adequate soil, water and sunlight. How like the human soul, which likewise survives through many adverse conditions it is put through.

How like the persistence of nature is the persistence and determination of the human spirit. I recently read the following story of such human spirit. “Once upon a time, in a concentration camp, there lived a prisoner who, even though he was under sentence of execution, was fearless and free. One day, he was seen in the middle of the prison square playing the guitar. A large crowd gathered to listen, for under the spell of the music, they became fearless as he. When the prison authorities saw this, they forbade the man to play.

“But the next day there he was again singing and playing on his guitar with a large crowd around him. The guards angrily dragged him away and had his fingers chopped off. Next day he was back, singing and making what music he could with his bleeding fingers. This time the crowds were cheering. The guards dragged him away again and smashed his guitar. The following day he was singing with all his heart. What a song! So pure and uplifting. The crowd joined in, and, while the singing lasted, their hearts became as pure as his, and their spirits invincible. So angry were the prison authorities this time that they had his tongue cut off. A hush descended on the camp.

“To the astonishment of everyone, he was back at his place the next day swaying and dancing to a silent music that no one but he could hear. And soon everyone was holding hands and dancing around this bleeding, broken figure in the center while the guards stood rooted to the ground in wonder.”

I have heard of an Indian, who one day came to a missionary and told him he had been making some poetry, which he wished to show him. It was found to be several verses in very “common metre,” and all exactly like the first verse, which ran as follows: “Go on, go on, go on, go on,/ Go on, go on, go on,/Go on, go on, go on, go on,/Go on, go on, go on.”

Rev. Dr. Fred Andrea is the pastor of Aiken’s First Baptist Church.