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Who has ever walked through a field without getting cockleburs on pants and socks? Or let a dog run loose through a wild prairie area without having it come back with knots of hair so entangled with those pesky burs that they had to be cut out? Those horsepill-sized ovoid balls bristle with a hundred stiff fibers each so they attach to any hair or fiber that passes by. Thus the seed travels to distant points and plants itself wherever the carrier finally succeeds in dislodging it. So effective and persistent is this method of connection that it inspired the invention of velcro. Even those things that irritate us can teach us. 

Cockleburs are sturdy annuals that grow rapidly into thick stalks that branch out into shrubs. Their broad leaves provide a small tree of shade for the little animals of the field, but they crowd out the less durable row crops that farmers value, and they provide a challenge to the combine at harvest. Cutting those weeds out of soybeans and corn used to provide a steady income to us row-walkers during June and July of each year, but in the last two decades a series of chemicals have replaced the labor intensive method of extermination. And drilled beans and narrow-rowed corn have made row “walking” more challenging! (I can’t forget velvetleaf, smart weed, pigweed, ragweed, various thistles, milkweeds, and other “offenders” who each deserve their own memorials.) Nevertheless cockleburs thrive. Partly this is due to the need to time spraying appropriately to match their early development. Partly it is due to the ingenious design of the seeds themselves to include time-release germination.  

Every cocklebur produces seeds that germinate at one year, two year and three year intervals. If you really want to get rid of it, your plan must include a long-term execution. Again we must marvel at the intricacies and sophistication of nature. Often it suggests design and pattern as a counterpoint to accident and happenstance. We marvel at these small revelations and jump ahead in thought to the Designer in the faith that our lives too may prove sturdy and resilient, when the final pattern becomes visible. 

So we take our lessons from this inspiration for velcro. Can we be as persistent in our faith, and in our attachment to things that carry us farther than mere passing whim, and in our patience to begin from scratch again another year regardless of how much endures from last year’s efforts?

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