Cherries... first or last?
Fruit cocktail has been a treat in my household since I was a little kid. I do believe it is this actual food that started a “tradition” or “condition” that some might label a bit OCD. For as long as I can remember, I have left the cherries for the last bite. Pushing them around the pears, peaches, and strange little (somewhat skinless) grapes. I would devour everything before enjoying the cherries. This impulse seemed to work its way into other dishes such as eating the shrimp last in a good dish of Lo Mein or saving my favorite sushi pieces for last (I should not have written this when I was hungry). It is something that I have done for well over 40 years. A few weeks ago I had observed something about myself. I had started eating the cherries first. Shrimp had no chance of escape on my plate either. I had started realizing that while I was gathering up all the good things… I was consuming the mediocre things and strangely enough, I could not enjoy my favorite things because I was too full. Patricia (my wife) pointed out that when you do this… it forces you to consume all the ho-hum items so that you can give yourself the permission to enjoy the favorites. It made me think. What else in my life had I been holding on to… just waiting for the right time to enjoy them… and in the meantime, I had settled for the mundane. Or even worse… what had I been holding on to out of fear that I might never get it back and therefor, I never enjoyed it at all. I was immediately reminded of the dread and fear that I had letting my oldest son grow up and make life altering decisions on his own. I literally felt like I had been holding my breath for two years during Walker’s junior and senior years of high school. It was not just those years, I was reminded of the tough times my wife and I had gone through (and still go through) with our business. How times where the P.O. Box was empty when we slid that skinny little key in the hole and turned it to find nothing when we really needed something. Those days seemed to cripple me at times. Shut me down… Yet… I had many blessings… many cherries in my bowl. I just chose to push them around… to keep eating the stuff that, not only was I consuming, but it was consuming me. I wasn’t just hoarding the good things… the favorite things… I was neglecting them. A few weeks ago, my wife and I had been leading a Bible study in our home. I realized had been so used to my diet of pears and funky grapes that, at first, I was not all that keen on having a group of people that I did not know in my house to do the requisite gut spilling that this old man had begun to despise. I had not considered that it was time to consume the good things in my life. To share our home with others. To share fellowship with other Christians. To get up and do something other than work and sit around the house. And mostly… the biggest cherry of them all… to put my nose in God’s Word. All of these resources… these cherries… were right here, before me. As a result of studying God’s word, I was finally reminded of this truth. You can only TRULY enjoy the cherries in life, when you live a life consuming and (consumed by) the Holy Spirit. Jesus says in John 15:5 … “I am the vine, you are the branches; he who abides in Me, and I in him, he bears much fruit: for apart from Me you can do nothing.” I can only enjoy everything God has given me when my heart is thankful. When I don’t let the things of the world consume me. When the activities of my day actually FAN THE FLAMES of what the Spirit has in store for me instead of grieving the Spirit. It has been a strange lesson. But as I have asked God to help me live my life more controlled by His Spirit, I have started to lose my appetite for the pears, the grapes, and even the peaches. A post that used to set me off and send me into a tailspin of troll tirades on Facebook have started appearing to me as they should… filler … not for me… not cherries. As I depend on the Holy Spirit to help me dispose of the filler fruit that takes my focus off of the real prize, I am starting to realize the goodness, and its ok… you can enjoy it now… because if you are letting the Holy Spirit lead your life, there is plenty more where that came from. May our lives continue to be the bowl as we depend on the Holy Spirit to fill it with the cherries.