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My family is big on berries. Summer starts out with picking strawberries on my grandparents strawberry farm. After that, there is raspberries, blackberries, and blackcaps, finishing out with blueberries at the end of summer. We are lucky enough to have a small raspberry patch in the back corner of our property. Of all the berries you can buy, raspberries are the most expensive. As an odd coincidence, they are also my favorite. So, it is *yay* that I can pick raspberries for free from the wild canes growing out back.
While picking rasberries, it hit me how many similarities there are between gathering the fruit and our Christian walk, particularly evangelism. For the uninitiated, allow me to go through what it takes to pick wild raspberries.
Yesterday, I went raspberry picking. This particular berry is only ripe for a short period of time, at least around here, so it didnt matter that it was lightly raining when I chose to go out. I knew it was likely the only chance I would get before they were gone. I trudged outside in my sneakers, and pants, with my hair up in a pony tail, armed with a plastic bowl. After struggling through some weeds that had grown higher than my head, I finally found a raspberry patch.
Many of the canes were immature, and so were short, fragile, lacking in fruit, and the thorns were so small they were more like fuzz. The plants I was interested in were in the center of the patch, or up close to a tree, with large thorns. To get the berries, I had to push through the brush and plants slowly, navigating my way through, thankful for the pants that protected my legs and wishing I had put on a long sleeved shirt that would do the same for my arm.
I had a bit of a hard time finding the fruit, as it has been rainy around here lately. This causes a few problems. Without plenty of sun, not as many will be produced, and furthermore, the raindrops will sometimes knock them off of their stems. I had to crouch and bend and squat and struggle through the scratchy plants to get to them. Often, I would glance around and not see a single glimmer of red, then by simply moving aside a few leaves, find some red gems twinkling at me. I cant tell you how many times I thought I picked an area clean, but by coming back through at a different angle I find enough to keep me busy for several minutes. Also, there is a particular way you actually pluck the fruit. You gently take the berry between your fingers, and very gently and slowly twist a bit. If it is ripe, it will fall off into your fingers (or, frustratingly, onto the ground). If it is not ripe, no matter how red it looks, it will stubbornly cling to its hull. I will go back three or four times to the same berry that looks ripe and try to get it off and, unless I bruise and rip it off, there it stays. It just is not ready yet.
So, there I was, crouching in a patch of raspberries. My back was aching from leaning over to pick the few low ones, water was streaming down my neck and puddling in my shoes, my arms were stinging from scratches, and I was hot from the exertion of bending, pushing through the brush, and stretching to reach a few berries just a little bit farther than my arms are long. I was frustrated by the lack of berries, the ones that fell to the ground, and by the difficulty of obtaining the few. It was there, looking at the dismal amount of raspberries that just covered the bottom of my bowl that the analogy came to me.
You are a Christian, even in the rain. As a Christian, you struggle through the brush and the prickers. You have to be prepared. You have to come at things at a different angle than you always used to. It is hard work. And what is the goal? What is the purpose behind all the trudging and struggling and preparing? To get the raspberry... To free those that are bound...Its raspberry season, and the time to gather is short. When you tell others the Good News, some people are like the berries that look ready but would be badly damaged if you force it. The people that are the most "ripe" are often the ones that are sorrounded by huge thorns and are hard to get to, but just the gentlest touch and they are free. But unlike the berries that spoil on the stem, it is not too late for God to restore a rotten person. We must gather until it is too late and those who werent ready or were unreachable despite the most fervent effort fall into the muck and filth.