It was an odd place to find fruit. And I realized that it wasn’t the first time I’d had that experience.
I was hiking last week on a sunny day in the hills near our home, with my state mired in one of the worst droughts in history. “Winter” has been a misnomer in Southern California this year – while much of the country struggled under record cold temperatures, we were sweating through Christmas and hoping for a storm or two. The hills around our town are dry and mostly brown – normal for summer, but unusual in January.
When I first came across the dozen tennis-ball-sized fruit along the side of the trail, I assumed that a fellow hiker had spilled them by accident. But then I noticed that they were still connected to the dried vines on which they had grown. I don’t know what they are called, but they gave some unexpected color to the hillside. And frankly, it was the last place that I expected to find fruit.
As I walked along the dusty trail, I thought about other seasons in my life when I came across unexpected fruit, times when the faithfulness of God provided refreshment in places that appeared at first glance to be dry and barren.
- Unexpected fruit in times of grief: After losing my mother-in-law, my brother and my father in the space of four months in 2007, I had the chance to speak about grief at our church. I stood in a staff meeting to invite my colleagues to attend the gathering, and surprised myself by saying that I had found the path of grief to be “oddly refreshing.” It was a phrase that I hadn’t contemplated before it came out of my mouth, and to be honest it sounded strange to me. But it was true. In the midst of loss, the Comforter had accomplished His work in surprising but welcome ways.
- Unexpected fruit in times of pain: I had spinal fusion when I was 19 years old, spending 5 months in bed to recuperate from the painful procedure. When doctors spoke two years later about another possible surgery, I went for a walk and vividly remember saying this to God: “I am willing to go through it again if You promise to teach me as much the second time as You did the first time.”
- Unexpected fruit in times of waiting: I have found God to be frustratingly slow to answer my prayers for guidance, for direction, and for clarity. Waiting on Him is one of the most difficult parts of life – King David could relate, which is why his psalms so often contain the phrase “How long, O Lord?” But my God is more than capable of using what appears to be wasted time to shape me and prepare me for what He has planned. I have seen this time and again.
Thanks to the faithfulness of God, I have found fruit in unexpected places. What about you? What oasis have you found in a dry season of your life? I’d love to see the comments section on this post become a celebration of ways God has surprised us with joy, comfort and peace when we least expected it. Consider yourself invited to participate.
Unexpected fruit – I think it may be the best kind. I’ve found it, and I hope you have too.
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