I live in the region of the United States that has all four seasons. A clear spring, with it’s rain, bright warming sunshine, fresh sprigs of greenery coming through the melting snow. A summer full of fun in pools, ponds, and water parks. Fresh vegetables and fruit, cook-outs, and parades with fireworks.
Fall is my favorite season. The weather changes, it’s time for flannels, rich soups, warm breads, relaxing fires, and time with my family to celebrate birthdays and holidays. The season has officially become fall here in Nebraska and the weather has gone through a wardrobe change. The trees are bejeweled with bright yellow and red leaves.
As a child this time of year also brought apple picking to the forefront. My folks, my brother, dear family friends, and I would go to the same place every year for as many apples as we could carry in our bushel bags. Then home to my folks’ for stew or chili and a night of fun and laughter.
Each one of those times had something precious about it. the laughter, the weather, the friends, the adventure. Ask any of us and you will find that we all are grateful for the memories. Part of the blessing of that time and the time I am currently in, comes from celebrating the little things. Finding the joy in the mundane, the sweet spot when it could be otherwise difficult.
I am surrounded by crabby, broken, prickly people in my life. Those who would rather pull someone down to their negative level than allow someone to lift them up to a positive level. We all know them. It may be the person in the grocery line, down the row from you at work, and yes, the person next to you in church and even next to you in bed.
I don’t mean to say we should be singing songs and finding foolish happiness that isn’t lasting. But I do mean to look at the struggles from Heaven’s perspective. It is temporary, it is inconvenient, and yes, it can cause pain. But it should never be a surprise.
Jesus told us in the Gospel of John that we would have troubles, but to Take heart, for I have overcome the world (John 16:33). Second Corinthians continues this teaching in chapters three and four, by reminding us that we are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another. For this comes from the Lord who is the Spirit (2 Corinthians 3:18).
We can choose to carry around the weight of the struggles that are on this side of Heaven, striving to remain angry and bear the role of a martyr. Or we can remember what Paul said in 2 Corinthians 4:7-12: But we have this treasure in jars of clay to show that the surpassing power belongs to God and not to us. We are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not driven to despair; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed . . .(2 Corinthians 4:7-9).
We can choose to complain that the fruit and blessings we want are out of season or we can choose to pick and enjoy the ripe fruit in front of us. It is just that our choice. The amount of energy it takes to remain angry, to constantly act out of our pain and our perceived suffering, trying to inflict others with our negative attitude – who wants to make themselves that tired?
I choose to pick the fruit of Joy, Grace, Mercy, Love, Kindness, Forgiveness. These ripe fruits are always before us. So let us grab a basket and start picking!