“Lift up your eyes, and look on the fields; for they are white already to harvest. (John 4:35, KJV)
Or in this case, purple.
The boys have gone back to school today. I love the summer holidays and having everyone at home but I do miss time on my own, so I decided to take half an hour of solitude picking blackberries. (I picked 2 1/2lbs in that time, which would set me back £5 in Asda, but that’s an aside….)
It’s not really surprising that my mind got to thinking of the Divine harvest as recorded in the passage I mentioned above. I’ve always had mixed feelings about this passage, I don’t like comparing the privilege of introducing others to God to plucking fruit from a tree (I’m sure more competent Bible scholars can shed more light on that) but I did learn some lessons from my time out there.
1. We all have our own part to play.
Matt (my husband) is a foot taller than I am. He can reach berries I can’t. Edward (our 5 year old youngest son) gets down on his hands and knees, and spots berries hiding under leaves. I am less cautious about the nettles and thorns and will push that bit further into the bush. Our eldest son, William (who is 9) will stay after the rest of us have gone and pick a few more. That’s good teamwork and we do get a lot more picked.
I think all to often we get into the trap of trying to do everything. “If I don’t do this, it won’t get done.” It’s not true, is it? Even within the things we’ve had Divine commission to do, we are not the be all and end all. Give room for others to work, train up the next generation, learn to let go.
2. Some picking will push us out of our comfort zone.
Sometimes it’s easy to pick the berries, they’re at the right height, hanging well away from the thorns and not surrounded by nettles. But look at that one, there… It’s huge… It’s perfectly ripe… It’s just out of reach. But if I push a little further and ignore the discomfort, even pain, of nettles stings and bramble scratches then I can harvest more. I’ve already said that I’m reasonably happy to do this, but what really freaks me out is the thought that hiding in all the long grass at the foot of the bushes could well be snakes. And it does freak me out. But if I avoided the long grass do you know how many berries I’d pick? Not a single one.
Pushing ourselves out of our comfort zone is a good thing. We’ve done a lot of that over the last 18 months with Forest Church and some other initiatives. We’ve grown as people, in our relationship with God (and each other). We’ve seen some amazing things and met some awesome people. It’s also led to some fractured relationships with others who haven’t ‘got’ what we do, and led to some people getting a wrong opinion of us. That’s painful. But there’s growth there too.
3. It doesn’t matter if we drop something.
Picking blackberries can be fiddly work. All too often one is super ripe and squidges. Many a time I’ve knocked or dropped one to the floor. I don’t get upset by it, there’s plenty more for the picking. The lost and spoilt ones become food for rodents and insects, so nothing is wasted.
But how often do we get upset when the work we do for God doesn’t turn out as we expect? Our relationship with someone or something we give our heart to turns sour, fractures, falls apart completely. Yes we mourn, we try to heal, but we mustn’t let it define us. I realise as I type this that I sound a little callous, but that’s not intentional. I’m the worst at getting upset when this happens, and I guess that I’m telling myself that there are times when I have to not let little things eat away at me but move on to the next thing.
4. Harvesting is sometimes done by other means.
Good teamwork aside, there are still many more berries on those bushes than we can ever reach. The majority of berries taken off those bushes will be done by birds, insect and other creatures, not people.
Is that not also true for the ways people come to know God? Jesus said that no ones comes to the Father except through him (John 14:6) and I wholeheartedly believe that. But how many ways are there to come to Jesus? As many as a creative, infinite God can come up with. If God reaches out to any of us in a way that isn’t considered mainstream, should we be surprised? Should we react in horror and condemn it? Or should we let the Divine Breath whisper in all situations and be prepared to be blown along too?