Seemingly overnight, our little Eden was sprinkled with sun-ripened, red tomatoes. We picked each beautiful prize and enjoyed them with everything for a few days: BLT’s to bruschetta, Caprese skewers and plain cherry tomatoes. There’s nothing like enjoying the fruit of labor fresh off the vine… or is it the vegetable of our labor? I can never remember.
At first, my boys were energetic helpers in the garden, even maybe a bit zealous with their grabs, bruising some until they learned that tender tomato touch. But then it was hot. And chickens are more fun to chase, and the dog, or cats, or nearly anything is more entertaining. It’s hard to be flustered at little ones abandoning their buckets when they leave you for cowboy hats and wild, bucking bicycles. I stood alone (if browsing chickens don’t count as company), in the rows of plants heavy and straining with tomatoes.
“The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few,” I reminded Cluck Vader and Peep.
When I see my children around the garden, picking cucumbers, scaling the trees for apples or gathering paunchy pears that have dropped to the ground, I want the moments to last forever. I crave simpler times when the biggest worry for young ones was helping on the family farm. Sometimes, I think I’d like to turn back the clock rather than deal with COVID or the litany of bad news that dominates media and conversations. But how far would we have to go?
About fifty years ago, the U.S. was at war with Vietnam, Roe v. Wade legalized abortion, terrorists killed 11 Israeli Olympians in Munich and the Beatles broke up. We’d need to time travel further.
Nearly a hundred years ago, 75 people died in the Tulsa race war, the stock market crashed and Adolf Hitler wrote Mein Kampf from his prison cell. Baseball did have Babe Ruth, but we would still need to go back.
We were revolutionary 250 years ago—in war and industry. Americans fought (and died) for independence, and about 50,000 men, women and children were lost each year due to factory boiler explosions. When were those simpler times?
500 years ago, the first African slaves were brought on ships to Santo Domingo. Henry VIII became synonymous with political scandal, and God’s children were divided. Was there ever a time period parents would choose for their children?
What if we went back 2,000 years when the Father chose to bring His only begotten Son to the world? That must have been the best, simplest, safest, most sanitized and perfect time for a young one. I often think of Mary, the model for mothers, and how she may have tended a garden with Jesus. I imagine how they could have played together as they picked berries, their giggles as she lifted little Jesus to pluck figs, or playing hide-and-seek amongst vast mustard branches. What a beautiful time it must have been.
And yet, the holy infant rested in hay and rags. For most of Christ’s childhood, they were hiding in Egypt from a tyrant, genocidal king. Jesus’ later years were not free of loss, sorrows or storms. Oh, how Mary must have wanted to shield her son, too. How her heart must have broken—rather, pierced with a sword—when the fruit of her womb was harvested on the cross.
The harvest is plentiful.
My hope is that the brokenness of the world, all its troubles and trials, must be the fertile ground of potential for a bountiful spiritual harvest. All the conflicts, coronavirus and catastrophes are surely an opportunity for the laborers. But how? Maybe we are to look to other fruits.
In the wise words of Mother Teresa, “The fruit of silence is prayer. The fruit of prayer is faith. The fruit of love is service. The fruit of service is peace.”
There is no perfect point in human history. Mankind has always struggled with sin and suffering. And still, we were made for today, for this very moment, and we who know the love and saving grace of Jesus Christ are the laborers. Let’s start by getting dirty in the garden with our families and picking the fruit of prayer. I can only imagine how our buckets will overflow.