Spare Us the Beauty of Fruit Trees
“I am come that they might have life, and that they might have it more abundantly.” – John 10:10 KJV
I got poison ivy on the second day of vacation. The next day was full of email. My children bickered. It started to rain. I stepped barefoot on a Lego. I got two phone calls crowing about missed payments. Credit cards. They didn’t say it, but they said it, “You’ll never get your act together.”
None of this surprised me. The rain kept coming. Badminton? A gin and tonic? I’d sooner wear a polo shirt with a popped collar. Summer is for suckers.
I felt bitter. And my bitterness was just delicious! I let it sit on my tongue. I savored the taste. I stoked my pique. I should have stayed at work. We should have stayed in the city. Nothing matters anyhow.
I jumped on my bike. There was a grass road behind the house. The rain stopped. The sun broke. The sky became all violet light just as the road became an orchard. I flew downhill, tight between two rows of cherry trees. The fruit was a blur of red. The trees a blur of green.
The wonders of Christ’s cherry blur undid my disposition. He took my tasty bitterness and made it foul. I hit the brakes. I spit it out. What could I do next but drink his sweetness in? I drank. I mourned my own absurdity. I laughed out loud. It was all too beautiful.
In her poem “Orchard” H.D. prays, “You have flayed us with your blossoms / Spare us the beauty of fruit-trees.” That prayer will always go unanswered. We can decide existence is a problem. There’s plenty of evidence. We can confuse cynicism for wisdom. We’ll get plenty of agreement. But God wants our joy. And she will not leave us alone. So we get the loveliness of fruit-trees, whether we want it or not.
O God, strip off our sophistication. Cover us in loveliness. Amen.
Matt Fitzgerald is the Senior Pastor of St. Pauls United Church of Christ in Chicago. He is the host of “Preachers on Preaching,” a weekly podcast sponsored by The Christian Century.