We’re spending Spring Break week at the girls’ dearly loved Gramma Honey and Papa Billy’s farm in rural Fresno. For the kids, it’s a rural haven of farm animals to play with, ditches to swim in, golf carts to drive/crash, and all manner of agricultural shenanigans up which to get. For Phil and I, it’s a chance to get away from the technological whirlwind that is life in Silicon Valley. Phil takes increasingly frail Bill on field trips to Bill’s beloved Costco, and I spend time feasting on long conversations with Joyce, the Godliest Woman on Earth ™, and feasting on the fruits of her orchards. Literally.
Every year, the acreage around the farm is filled with fruit trees. The varieties change from year to year, but thanks to the industry of Bill and Joyce’s family, the quality never does.
I still remember the day I first had a peach picked directly from a tree in Joyce’s “backyard”. I remember marveling at the sight of it. It was a hundred different shades of orange, red, and yellow and all the hues between. It was the platonic embodiment of the universal peach. I reached and pulled on it gently, and it transferred its residency from the branch to which it had been attached, to my hand, heavy and warm. The first bite was everything I’d hoped for every peach I’d ever eaten – dry, fuzzy skin yielding to a firm, slick interior, with juice that was sweet but not cloying.
As I ate it, I thought on all the peaches I’ve ever seen at the grocery store or in the farmer’s market – stacked in pyramids of yellow or nestled in boxes resting on pillows of tissue paper to be kept from the bruising that so quickly leads to decay. Occasionally I would see a young man or woman bring the boxes from cold storage in the nether regions of the store. I had known in theory that those boxes didn’t get there by magic – that a hardworking group of farmers and day laborers had put days and weeks of sweat into getting those peaches grown to perfection, then off of the trees and into those boxes. I also knew, especially from experience, that market demand for pretty peaches at low prices for as long as possible meant that many farmers breed their fruit far more for appearance and durability during transportation, than for taste. Thus, the cheap and lovely peaches I had bought too often that were all pretty and no peach. They had spent too little time on the tree, and too much time on the truck getting to the store. So the fruit was often floury and tasteless. On the other hand, the peach I had just eaten, newly picked from the tree from which it had grown and flourished, was everything a peach was created to be.
I remembered that peach recently as I as I was reading a book some friends had recommended for its helpfulness for promoting Christian virtue for women. (I’ll decline to name it, out of respect for the women I love who found it helpful as much as anything else.) The chapters listed particular virtues – faithfulness, humility, contentment, and then proceeded to describe why they were important and why God required them and that we could be them because – Christian!
It read more like a tract from the Mormon Relief Society. No wonder I put the book down in frustration (or rather, my iPad because .99 on Kindle meant it was cheap!). I needed more about the tree.
As a way to apply that principle, I’ve been working on memorizing Ephesians 1. This exercise began simply as a way to apply the larger idea that I need to make God’s Word a part of my heart and soul as surely as I make food a part of my body. But as I’ve meditated on Ephesians 1, I’ve seen how helpful it has been in helping me deal with ongoing discontentment over some life circumstances. The list of all that I have in Christ is long and so, so rich – spiritual blessings, adoption, redemption, forgiveness, a guaranteed inheritance I’m just waiting to receive in full. Each one of those concepts is full to bursting with significance. Looked at together, they subsume my temporal disappointment with their eternal certainties. Meditating on all the riches I have in Christ produces the fruit of contentment in my life in a way that just thinking on the idea of contentment never does.
I would love to say the contentment lasts – that I’ve memorized these verses, checked contentment off my list, and moved on to the next virtue. But I can’t. I’ve had to call these verses to mind in the last 24 hours many, many times. I’m getting ready to log off and spend the whole day with my family instead of writing on all the topics I want to write, so I expect I’ll need to recall them many more. Good fruit has a short shelf life.
But I’ll take the fruit that comes from spending a long time on the tree, over the fruit that doesn’t, any day.