Today, I made pickles. I love to can. I try to do dill pickles, applesauce, tomatoes and a few sweet pickles each year. It is a very gratifying activity for me, since I feel as though I am storing up summer's bounty to use during those cold winter months. When I was a young girl, I loved the Laura Ingalls Wilder books. I always fantasized that I was living in a log cabin in the middle of nowhere, living off the land, cooking and sewing. Scarily enough, that is still my daydream! Although now, I dream of a small log cabin beside a lake in the middle of nowhere with a laptop and CNN. Isn't it funny how your dreams change?
I am definitely digressing from what I wanted to share with you tonight! As I was preparing the cucumbers to be packed in jars and covered in brine I started to think about how the cucumbers grow. You see, when I prepare cucumbers for pickling, I cut off the bloom end of the cucumber. It's easy to determine which end is the bloom end. Cucumbers are darker on the end that was closest to the vine. The end on which the bloom grew is lighter green in color.
As I was cutting these cucumbers today, I thought about my life. What end of the cucumber do I want to be? You see the end nearest to the vine is dark green. This is the end that was fed and nourished by the life given it from the vine. The end of the cucumber that was closest to the bloom did not get the same nourishment, so it's skin is lighter in color. I want my life to be full of the nourishment that only Jesus can give. If lives have color, I want the color of my life to be rich. The only way to have that rich life, or abundant living, is by staying close to the vine.
John 15:1 I am the true vine, and my Father is the husbandman.
John 15:4 Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself, except it abide in the vine; no more can ye, except ye abide in me.
If I stay close to Jesus, through prayer, through regular time reading the bible, through bringing every thought into captivity (II Cor 10:5). My life can have a rich, vibrant color. I can be the vine end of the cucumber, and not the bloom end.
So what happens to the end of the cucumber where there was once a beautiful orange flower? Well, when I make pickels, that end gets removed and thrown into the compost bucket. The flower has shriveled and left a brown blemish on the end of the cucumber. I know people who have lives like the bloom on the cucumber. They are bright and beautiful for a time, and then the flower fades. A scar is left on their lives where the bloom used to be. Where once they lived a life of color, like the color on the flower of the cucumber plant, they are now left with a dull green. The bloom end of the cucumber is not a deep green, but a dull, light green.
I have a friend who is struggling with the result of some bad life choices. She lived the rich color like the bloom on the cucumber for a period. Now, she is left with the dull light green as her bloom has shriveled and fallen off of the plant. I spoke with her this week and she told me that she used to think God humbled you by humiliating you. She has now learned that God teaches you humility by showing you grace and forgiveness. Her decisions hurt others in her family. Now, she is experiencing the grace and forgiveness of God, her family, friends, and her church. It is a very humbling thing to accept someone else's unconditional love and forgiveness when you know you were wrong. But this is how God gets us back to that vibrant green life! Our lives move toward the Vine and away from the bloom.
Ok, maybe the cucumber analogy has run its course. But my afternoon spent trimming and packing cucumbers taught me life lessons that I needed to share with you tonight.
Live your life near the vine. And live for the deep rich green color, it doesn't come in a quick burst of color in the form of a blooming flower. It comes from staying close to the Vine, who is Jesus, and by drinking in all the nourishment only He can give.