Finding Fruit in Unexpected Places

It was an odd place to find fruit.  And I realized that it wasn’t the first time I’d had that experience.

IMG_1432I 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.

IMG_1439When 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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About Sabbath Thoughts

My name is Mike Gaston. I am a former missionary, a Shepherding Pastor at Heights Church in Prescott, AZ, a happy husband, a spoiled father of two daughters, a proud grandfather, and a recently-convinced pursuer of the benefits of intentional, regular, contemplative, Christ-centered rest. This blog will allow me to share thoughts about Sabbath, as well as thoughts about God and the Christian life that come out of my restful Sabbath moments.
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9 Responses to Finding Fruit in Unexpected Places

  1. debra petrella says:

    Mike as always your wisdom and thoughts helps me to reflect, and this time of great pain when I wasn’t walking with Christ. For the first 40 years of life in fact I lived in darkness, I knew of him but didn’t know Him.Life lesson so painful I can’t even find the words to clearly express them.
    When He opened my eyes so much unexpected joy at the newness of risen life and the abundance of grace. God has continued to show His love and faithfulness to me ad my family.

    • I’m glad you’ve seen that faithfulness, Debra. I’ve found that people who come to Christ later in life have a keener appreciation for what life is like with Him, because they know what it is like without Him.

  2. Mary says:

    Yes, indeed, it is refreshing to find God in the desert. I find it just as hard to hear God in these times. Day after day sunny, dry and pounding out a living, and serving the best that I can. Some days I just ask God for something that says I know Him or that He knows me. My faith stumbles regularly. I wish there was something always ready to prove this to me. But when I stop long enough and search, I can see how powerfully he walks with me. It feels a little like rain.

    • Love your last phrase, Mary. Reminds me of a prayer I prayed while hiking in a burned out canyon a few months ago. You can read about it in “lessons from a wildfire Part 2.” We’ve had similar experiences. Thanks for chiming in- may the rain be increasingly refreshing.

  3. Shari says:

    The Lord has produced unexpected fruit in my life during times of loneliness while living in our remote village home in PNG. When we were in the early years of language learning, our co-workers were gone, mail was very slow, and I was struggling to communicate in the language, I would be tempted to feel sorry for myself and be discontent. It was in those times that the Lord gently drew me to Himself and to the richness of His Word, showing me that all I truly needed was Him, and that He wanted me to find complete satisfaction and contentment in Him.

  4. Penny Burch says:

    Mike, my unexpected fruit came slowly as I watched my daughter’s faith be tested during her time of unemployment . Kimmy (daughter ) was unemployed for several years and during that time she and her family went though almost all of their savings and were contemplating drawing down the small amount in the retirement accounts. Inteviews were few and far between and in the end, the jobs went to someone else. It was a hard time and often she would struggle with the why and what have I done to deserve the brink of bankruptcy kind of thoughts. In a story too long to tell here, she did get a job and told me that she now “sees” how God used this time to grow her faith in Him and to strengthen her relationships with her daughters and husband. God is faithful even if it means that we face or enter into ruin of some sort. It hard to see and hard to watch, but it is true none the less. God is our refuge and our strength , our ever present help in time of need.
    Grace 2u,

  5. Ken Royer says:

    Amen. Thanks for the good thoughts!


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