Why is it that the very best berries–the plumpest, sweetest ones– are always at the very bottom of the bush, underneath all the foliage… or they are at the very tip top of the longest upward extension of the bush? I do not know. Perhaps it has something to do with getting the most exposure to the sun up at the top and being closer to the roots at the bottom.
But the best berries are the ones you really have to want, because they require patience (you have to put your bucket down) and a good long stretch or some knee bends and a good underhanded reach.
Sometimes the sweetest parts of Christianity are the most difficult. The best prospective convert is not the most obvious one. The most rewarding challenge is the most difficult one. (Parenting comes to mind.) The best prospective mate is the one for whom you have to wait and work for a while. In all of these scenarios you have to be willing to stretch and reach. Sometimes just settling for what’s right there on eye-level proves to be a poor settlement.
I’m currently leading a discussion class for women about how we can be better wives to leaders in the kingdom of God. It’s a class I love. It’s a class I need. Right now, we are studying the specific qualifications for elders in first Timothy three, and how wives can help make our men qualified to lead God’s people. The very first qualification is desire. As I studied the Greek word for desire, it made me think of my berry bushes. “If a man desire the work of an elder” literally means if he is stretching and reaching, yearning for, longing for the work of an elder. I love that. He is looking at the work of an elder as the sweetest, the best aspiration. It’s as if he is looking at the berries at the tip top of the bush and he is willing to be diligent to reach them.
A dear friend of mine, who is an elder’s wife told me the sweet story of her first honeymoon night with her husband. She said when they got to the room, he read her a sort of marriage constitution…a list of plans and dreams he wanted to share with her. It included recalling the many prayers that were being answered as he took her for his wife. The sweetest thing, to me, about this marriage compact was that he told his new bride that he one day wanted to be an elder in the church and that he thanked God for a woman who could help him achieve that life goal. That’s pretty sweet. That’s reaching and stretching. That’s a man who desired the work of an elder. That’s why he is a godly and faithful shepherd today.
As I reach for those berries at the tip top of the bush, I think about first Timothy three. I think about other passages that make me want to stretch out of my comfort zone to do the harder things in His service. I want to be a teacher. I want to be the best mother-in-law that I can possibly be. I want to talk to someone about the gospel this week. I want to take the time to take people to the doctor when they need me and I want to help them buy their medications. I want to have people in my home. I want to be helpful to people around me who have family problems and who just need someone to listen. I want to help people who are recuperating from surgeries and other maladies. All of these things, right now, are a part of my world. But getting them all accomplished seems like a bit of a stretch. But stretching brings sweet rewards. Oh, I am sure I will drop a few berries when I find myself in some of those stretching situations and some of those dropped berries I may not retrieve. But even the ones on the ground are just as useful as the ones I never reached.
Let’s desire earnestly, long for, yearn for, reach and stretch for the very best and sweetest God has to give us.
P.S. Don’t forget the Digging Deep Podcast Tuesday night at 7 (CST). Hope you’re there for a great discussion about the book of James.