By Katie Mumper
Have you ever picked blueberries?
I remember picking blueberries at my grandparents’ house when I was a kid. When I close my eyes, an image floats behind my eyelids of my ten-year-old self. I’m barefoot, dressed in brightly colored shorts and a T-shirt. My hair swings in the breeze as I stand in front of the blueberry bush collecting my treasure. I sneak a few of the biggest berries into my mouth, savoring the sweet-yet-tart juice as they burst between my teeth.
When my container is full, I carry it to the kitchen where Grammy is rolling out piecrust. I watch as she places it into the pie tin. Together we wash and prepare the blueberries, adding them to the waiting crust before sliding the whole thing into the oven. As the aroma permeates the house, my stomach begins to rumble in anticipation.
We enjoy the pie warm, just minutes out of the oven. Grammy adds a scoop of vanilla ice cream to my slice, and I watch it melt over the deep purple of the berries. I love the combination of warm and cold as I shovel pie and ice cream into my mouth. I haven’t yet learned how to savor my food.
Many years later I stand in front of the same blueberry bush. Grammy is in a nursing home now. We’re at the house visiting my grandfather, and I can’t miss an opportunity to relive those childhood moments at the blueberry bush. In my memory, picking blueberries was an easy task: just grab a bunch of berries and throw them into a bucket. In reality it’s not so easy.
Blueberries don’t seem to ripen in any sense of order. Each cluster of berries has only a few that are ripe. I have to be careful not to pick the green berries with the blue ones. And it can take some time to find all the ripe berries. They hide under leaves and behind the green berries. I find myself checking again and again and again to be sure I have them all.
As I work, I begin to sense God whispering in my ear, asking me to pay attention to what I am experiencing. He calls to mind all those places in the Bible where we are described as trees that bear fruit. Jesus says we’re known by this fruit (Matthew 7) and that trees that bear bad fruit will be “chopped down and thrown into the fire” (Luke 3:9 NLT). In Galatians, Paul tells us the Holy Spirit produces specific fruit in our lives: “Love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control” (5:22–23 NLT).
It’s easy to read those verses and become discouraged at what seems to be a lack of fruit in my life. My tendency toward perfectionism leads to impatience with myself and my fruit-bearing skills. I know God is at work in my life, but I don’t see the handfuls of lusciously ripe fruit I think should be present as a result of his work.
Have you ever felt this way?
I’ve come to realize that the presence of any fruit at all, even if it’s not ripe, is proof the blueberry bush is alive and growing. Even the green berries are the result of the bush carrying out the process of taking in nutrients from the soil, water, and the sun. The bush produces fruit as a natural consequence of living, rooted deeply in the ground.
The same is true for us. Just like the berries on the bush, the fruit in our lives doesn’t ripen all at once. But when we live rooted in Christ, drawing life from him, we naturally produce fruit. Even if it’s not ripe, it’s still a sign of God at work, producing what only he can.
As you search for the ripe berries of your life, don’t overlook the green ones. Unripe fruit is still fruit.
Katie Mumper is a daughter, sister, friend, writer, and singer. She loves Jesus, music, books, and great TV shows. Because she’s far from perfect, she is grateful for God’s grace in her life. She writes with the hope that others might be encouraged to let God make them new as well. You can read more of her work at beautyrestored.me.
Photograph © Jessica Ruscello, used with permission