We walked along the worn path, beaten into a visible line by our beloved cows making their daily rounds over the land. We were taking in the warm sunshine and looking for leaves, bugs, and fish around the pond.
There’s a magical place behind the water where Grey likes to go “exploring”. This day, he wanted to show his special spot to little sister. As we approached the opening to his forest fort, Grey spotted the first ripe blackberries of the season.
Last year, the berries blossomed during quarantine. Picking blackberries became a daily activity for the kids, largely to get them out of the house. They have been asking to go and gather berries pretty much weekly since then.
Grey diligently plucked each juicy, black berry and popped them into his mouth. He shared some with Harlow, who stood with outstretched hands. As she watched Grey, Harlow decided to try her hand at picking the berries, only to draw out unripe, red berries and a palm full of thorns. If you’ve ever tasted premature blackberries, they are very bitter and unfit to eat. Resigned, she plopped onto the dirt path and awaited brother’s provisions.
I watched them, thinking back to hot, muggy mornings when my own brother and I would take a big, silver bowl from my grandmother’s kitchen, run to the meadow behind my great grandmother’s house and pick wild blackberries to our hearts’ content. We’d return hours later with stuffed bellies and red-stained hands to present our bounty. That afternoon, the berries would make their debut in a delectable cobbler, garnished with vanilla ice cream.
Here in 2021, I considered what a treat it is to have this fruit that blooms through thorns. Somehow, the inconvenience of precision required to avert the thorns makes the fruit that much sweeter.
I thought about how the things God tells us are good are sometimes covered by thorns. In fact, I think a lot of times we see what God has for us, but it is still red, like the unripe blackberries – it is not the right time. In other instances, we’ve experienced what it’s like to heal from the thorns and are not ready to jump back into the bush. And in still other cases, the thorn lodged itself so deeply, we have yet to get it out.
As we look along the path of our lives, it’s easy to get stuck staring at the wrong bush or watching others eat the ripest, juiciest fruits.
But as God reminds us again and again, He is our provider. He isn’t afraid of having his hands stained by the fruit and He is well-versed in healing what’s broken. He never lets anything go to waste, even the half-eaten or wormy fruits that lay discarded on the path.
And if we’re really paying attention, God shows us his plan. We are still sure to eat a few berries before they’re ripe, but that, too, can serve a purpose. When we’ve become ensnared in the thorns and feel hopeless, that is where we learn to depend on Him to meet our needs. He draws close to us in these moments. He works in our hearts, which in turn opens our eyes to the ways of God.
Yall, these berries are not stressing about whether they will have enough water to grow. They know the perfect time to bloom. They provide food for exploring toddlers, as well as animals that pass by. They even offer a source of income for those that venture into the vines to pluck them and sell to others.
God uses these unruly barbs that cause us to bristle to turn into blessings.
It may feel like you’ve been being pruned long enough. You may have become bitter. You may be daydreaming of the afternoon when you can sit gleefully eating warm blackberry cobbler.
Let me lovingly tell you that it’s time to get the thorns out of your hands. It never feels good to remove something that hurts, but a festering thorn is detrimental to your relationship with Christ and your ability to love others well. The things that you have stuffed into a box and never processed become thorns that will not allow you to move forward. It leaves you feeling like you are caught in the bush and that you will surely get snagged again.
Don’t be tempted to eat unripe berries, just because you’re not willing to wait for the right season.
I am reminded of these words the Lord told me when praying for a dear friend who needs the comfort of the Holy Spirit:
You are loved.
You are worthy.
You have a purpose.
You are chosen.
Nothings can separate you from my plan.
You are not defined by your past.
It’s ok the let go.
I will lead you.
I will guide you.
Fix your mind on me.
Do not be overwhelmed, for I have overcome.
The ensnaring vines you allow to regrow in your mind are taking up too much room; allow me to prune them.
I have poured out by blood to redeem you.
Accept my goodness.
You are my daughter.
You are my son.
I will not remember past things.
I am making all things new.
I will always make a path for you in the wilderness.
You are seen.
You are fully known.
You are mine.
These words echoed in my mind as I sat half sleeping on the stool waiting for Harlow to finish in the bathroom. It was late, but when a toddler needs to go, it’s time to go. Grey entered the bathroom, thinking it was morning.
“Mom, can we hurry and get dressed so we can pick more blackberries?”
Despite, the prickly plucking and palms that remained pigmented; despite the potential rattle snake beneath the bush and the time it takes to search each berry to find the ones that are ready to eat, this boy was ready to do it again.
And that’s what it’s all about. Setting aside what is comfortable and easy and trusting that we are cared for. When we receive this juicy gift and find contentment in Jesus, life gets a whole lot sweeter. Wait for the better berries.
Proverbs 27:7 “One who is full loathes honey from the comb, but to the hungry even what is bitter tastes sweet.”
John 15:16 “You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you so that you might go and bear fruit- fruit that will last – and so that whatever you ask in my name the Father will give you.”
John 15:1-7 “I am the true vine, and my Father is the gardener. He cuts off every branch in me that bears no fruit, while every branch that does bear fruit he prunes so that it will be even more fruitful. You are already clean because of the word I have spoken to you. Remain in me, as I also remain in you. No branch can bear fruit by itself; it must remain in the vine. Neither can you bear fruit unless you remain in me.
“I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing. If you do not remain in me, you are like a branch that is thrown away and withers; such branches are picked up, thrown into the fire and burned. If you remain in me and my words remain in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you.”
Colossians 1:10 “so that you may live a life worthy of the Lord and please him in every way: bearing fruit in every good work, growing in the knowledge of God.”