This year, what with the drought and all, my raspberry bushes were a bust. Nary a single blossom or berry did we get.
Sometime in mid-summer, just when things normally begin to get exciting in the berry patch, the bushes simply fell over into a collective droopy heap of dry, shriveled, sad, exhausted, and bare canes. Where berries should have been was nothing more than small, darkened, hardened, undeveloped blossoms.
We don’t harvest enough berries to brag about – just an added dash of bright red in fruit salads or atop ice-cream treats. But that’s enough to make us feel productive, farm-ish, and connected to the earth in some small way. That’s enough to marvel at the sweet burst of flavor. That’s enough to revel in the mystery of dirt-plus-rain-plus-sun-equals-bounty. That’s enough to be reminded of God’s goodness.
That’s enough to make this year’s non-harvest a source of disappointment.
It was – and still is – quite heartbreaking. I need to get out there and prune back the dead canes so next year’s berry crop stands a chance. But it’s depressing to look upon that pile of despair, to think about what could have been, to realize that the miracle and mystery of nature doesn’t always have a joyful ending.
I don’t particularly like the image.
It hits rather close to home.
It echoes the truth about my humanity.
It reflects what too often happens in my own life.
Droopy heaps of dry, shriveled intentions…of exhausted, bare emotions…of hardened, undeveloped thoughts…of dead, fruitless endeavors…these are the natural result – the only possible result – of a soul’s drought.
Bearing spiritual fruit is a miracle so far beyond dirt-plus-rain-plus-sun-equals-bounty that it’s nearly impossible to comprehend. How can broken creatures such as we produce beautiful things such as love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control?
We cannot, of course. On our own, left to our own devices, life is nothing more than a perpetual, deadly drought.
Thank God we are not consigned to live on our own, to scorch and shrivel and droop and rot in a pile of dry death.
Thank God we are invited to plant ourselves along the riverbank, to drink deeply of the water of life, to fill our souls with the truth of Christ, and to experience the breathtaking miracle of a fruit-filled life.
Thank God we are not subject to nature’s shifting weather patterns but instead are showered with the endless grace of Jesus.
Thank God we are loved and redeemed and transformed and cultivated in spite of ourselves.
Thank God indeed.