I couldn’t help noticing the other night, as I picked strawberries, the incredible variety of sizes, shapes, and shades. No berry is alike. There are some that are small and misshapen and others that are large and picture perfect. Some are pinkish, others are bright red, and some are red on one side, while remaining a whitish green on the other. Some ripen a bit at a time while others seem to ripen quickly and completely. It is amazing that these ripe berries, no matter their size or shape, taste delicious.
That is unless they have matured while laying on the garden bed of dirt. Then it often gets too moist and they perish to mold and rot and insects. I throw countless berries away every year, as I will reach for a beautiful, bright red berry just to find that one side has rotted away or a hole has been bored into it by some insect. Berries like that, while appearing attractive at first glance, are good for nothing.
Oh my, how much like people these berries are. Just as there are all shapes and sizes of berries, so there are all shapes and sizes of people. Is a large, perfectly shaped berry better than a small, misshapen berry? The world would tell you that it is, but a berry is a berry and sometimes those small, misshapen berries taste better than the large ones. Of course, most of us prefer the pretty berries and anything that is not so pretty probably gets sent to the jam factory. But when you have your own patch (or pick your own at your local CSA) you realize that there are very few perfect berries in life. You also realize that it doesn’t really matter.
I get so frustrated at the narrow definition this culture has for beauty. You have to be a certain body shape (which 90% of us aren’t) and a certain height and weight. We are told that this nose is too small and that one is too large for there to be true beauty. That one is too long-waisted and this one’s hair too thin. Who in the world makes these rules, anyway? Is anyone else sick of being told what is beautiful by Hollywood and magazine editors?
The other thing that we should consider is that, just like every berry ripens in its own given time, so it is, too, with people. We have to be careful not to expect someone to be a mature Christian, when they are not at that point yet in their walk with Jesus Christ, showing themselves to still be a shade of pinkish-green instead of bright red. Oh, the frustration and damage that is caused by harsh judgement on and unrealistic expectations for baby believers. We need to be very, very careful about this.
We can’t control our body size and shape (I am referring here to our healthy size and shape, not overweight, which can be changed) and we can’t control how fast the people around us mature as believers, but there is something we can control–we can keep ourselves out of the dirt.
Laying in the dirt leads to mold and disease and insect infestation. As a new creature in Christ, we have the power through the work of the Holy Spirit, to keep ourselves up and out of the dirt and muck of the world. If we don’t do it, it is very likely that we will end up good for nothing, at least as far as Christianity and sharing the gospel is concerned.
So let’s stop worrying about the things we can’t change and let’s stop casting arrogant, unforgiving eyes on those around us, and let’s start focusing on the thing we can control–keeping ourselves out of the dirt.
And there you have it– a few lessons from the strawberry patch!