Leave it to the nation of John Calvin, cheese-eating, and perpetual surrender to teach Christians an important lesson about sanctification.
(I kid, really. I love the French. I love their food, their wine, their culture. It’s my husband who can’t let the Second World War go. Pray for him.)
A French supermarket chain has been a getting a lot of totally deserved buzz after it launched a campaign to shed light on the problem of food waste and encourage people to get their five fruits and veg a day via produce that is less than visually ideal. This video describes the whole campaign and is worth the time to watch, but here are a couple of my favorite posters:
The posters get their point across pretty well, don’t you think? Intermarche’s customers definitely did. They wiped the baskets and shelves clean, happy to pay less for less than external perfection.
I’d love to see an American grocery store chain pick this idea up. But there are big cultural differences between American and French consumers. While the French are known for their love of beauty, they also know when to sacrifice it in the name of good taste. Ugly fruits and vegetables still taste great when they’re actually cooked and eaten. No one cares that your carrots look deformed when they’re going into soup. But we Americans like our produce to be pretty. Recently I helped lead a cooking class with some kids in a homeless shelter where we were going to make a home made ranch dressing to dip into vegetables they’d grown on a rooftop garden. When it came time to harvest, the carrots emerged from the soil skinny, bent and gnarled, with even some “two for ones” like the one in the picture. They weren’t the straight, narrow pyramids of carrot perfection the kids were used to seeing in a grocery store. You’d think that kids who had grown up in abject poverty would not have turned up their noses at free food, let alone food they’d helped to grow and harvest. But even they had preconceived notions about what their food should look like. And they weren’t buying it.
There’s a lesson for us in sanctification as well. There have been times in my life when I haven’t recognized the fruit God is producing, in my life, and especially in others, because it doesn’t look quite as shiny and perfect as I would like it to be. This summer I’ve been slowly working my way through the book of Ephesians, and I’ve been circling in what has felt like an endless loop of failure over the first part of chapter 4. I have three daughters, two of which have decided to double down on round the clock pubescent drama and angst. Lately I have been given what has felt like hourly opportunities to exercise gentleness, patience and loving forbearance in the face of relentless whining and eye rolling and OH YOU HAVE GOT TO BE KIDDDING WILL YOU JUSTKNOCKOFFTHEDRAMAAND GET. IN. THE. CAR. I seriously thought yesterday morning I should just switch to reading something less stretching. Give me Ezekiel’s wheels within wheels over what feels like my hamster wheel of sanctification FAIL. The fruit on my loving forbearance tree seems to be utterly missing. But sometimes, it’s because I don’t really see it.
Case in point. My dear husband has been doing a terrific job of getting our family outdoors and exercising together, in the form of weekly two mile walks to a local frozen yogurt shop. Last week, for one of my girls, the physical effort required to procure and put on activity-appropriate footwear was far too great in the face of the monumental feat of physical endurance she was about to undertake, so she left the house wearing flip flops that barely matched the length of her feet. Warnings about sore toes and back went unheeded. I was pretty sure she would soon be experiencing within her body the consequence for her foolishness, and within about a half a mile, my motherly instincts were confirmed. Then other instincts of a less godly nature kicked in as the whining and shuffling increased.
The following is the transcript of the conversation that transpired, not between my daughter and me. but between my outside voice and the inside voice that initiated a mini-counselling session inside my own head.
Outside voice (sharply and triumphally): Well, WHAT DID YOU EXP—
Inside voice: Um – NOT. Gentleness. Patience. MorningBibletime. Something about bearing love.
Outside voice (Quieter, but still 5/10 on the sarcasm scale): —ect would happen, I’m SO sorr—
Inside voice: Back to Ephesians 4. God. That thing in Titus – where is it? We were foolish and disobedient and God – something goodness and lovingkindness. Be like God. God.
Outside voice (actually meaning it) : –y they’re hurting. We don’t have far to go and then you can sit down.
Inside voice (praying): God, help her to only hear lovingkindness, and let that be what teaches her to repent and heed her mom’s voice next time.
Child silently sulks, stews and stomps (gingerly) to the frozen yogurt place.
Inside voice: “Well that didn’t go so great. Why can’t I remember Ephesians 4 first? Etc. Etc.”
It’s true that not every syllable of that interaction was bursting with the sweet flavor of gentleness and forebearance. But at least some of those syllables had more of it than had been there in the past, because they were spoken with at least some of the flavor of Ephesians 4. The fruit was inglorious, to be sure, but it was there.
If I’m being totally honest, as hard as I am on myself when it comes to fruit bearing, I’m even harder on those I love. Those closest to me. Like, say, my husband and children. One daughter is working hard to keep the cauldron of frustration at her sister from constantly boiling over, and when I hear her verbally dialing it down just as I had with her a couple of days before, I don’t think she did it fast enough or sincerely enough. When my husband, a man whose actions of love are constant but whose words are fewer than my words-as-predominate-love-language would long for, has started sending me thank you emails for things I’ve done for him or the girls, I wish it they were longer, or written in iambic pentameter. In those moments, it’s not the fruit my family is bearing that’s less than ideal, so much as my unloving response to it.
When any time, in any way, with the faith of a mustard seed, we put off our old words, and put on the words of Christ, we are bearing fruit. Not all of it will be perfect. We should pray for more of it, and for more of it to be truly beautiful. But instead of being critical, let’s be thankful that’s it’s there at all.
Thankfulness is fruit too.