I confess that I have been a long-time fruit inspector. I’ve never worked for Dole, Tropicana or Chiquita, but I could have been an asset to their teams. No fruit that was blemished, bruised or aged would pass my approval. It had to look “perfect” to enter my mouth! I’ve mellowed out over the years. I will now even look for a banana with some brown spots because I know it will be softer and probably taste a little better than the pristine yellow one.
Jesus tells us in St. Matthew’s Gospel that “by their fruits you will know them.” Growing up in a conservative Christian environment there were certain things that were indicators of how spiritual someone was or how committed they were to Christ. For my parents’ generation much was made of the length of a woman’s hair or her coiffure. Wedding bands, jewelry, hemlines could all point to the quality of the fruit. As I grew up I associated certain habits or vocabulary with the fruit of a person’s life: smoking, drinking or bad words. The story is told that as a little child I would call any of those things a “bad bird.” I guess I couldn’t say “bad word.”
The “gospel train” that I referred to my third post was my way of categorizing and organizing how “good” a person’s fruit was. Of course, doing that was way above my pay grade. Yet that had been part of the issue of my perception of the faith of anyone who hadn’t grown up with the same spiritual DNA.
Soon after the death of my mother-in-law, a friend who worked with me in several justice initiatives died in an accident. This friend was from a historic mainline denomination. My friend’s political and social framework was different from mine and honestly that impacted my assessment of this person’s fruit. After attending my friend’s memorial service I wrote the following in my journal in November 2013:
Attending the memorial service got me to thinking even more about my place in this world. As I was praying I thought about my heart being squeezed by an iron band as an appropriate description of the smallness of my perspective and perception, that I have typically focused on the limits or made very small the arena out of which I live and operate. I think the milieu in which I have lived can best be described by the question Charlotte asked me when I was telling her about the memorial service–“was X a believer?” I almost took offense at the question. Actually I did! Yet that has been the very question I first ask so often in trying to evaluate people. I have been notoriously a “fruit inspector.” The scenario surrounding my friend is a continuation of the conversation I had with my father-in-law after my mother-in-law’s death regarding her faith and relationship with God.
Something inside of me is crying out for more authenticity, more grace, an open heart–I pray that this is the Spirit that God has placed within me. As I prayed this morning, I don’t want to lag behind God in this, nor do I want to be out of tune or down some rabbit trail. What I know is that I have been very guarded and exclusive when it has come to matters of faith expression.
Nearly 10 years ago as I was approaching my 50th birthday I asked the Lord to not allow me to become calcified in my spirit or in my outlook. I wanted to be open to God so that the Holy Spirit would always have complete access to my life. Up to this point I thought I had pretty much achieved that. Yet God took my prayer very seriously. Of course it was God who birthed that prayer in my heart. Little did I know that I was beginning a journey I could never have anticipated. Lord have mercy!