When I think of summer I think of sun filled days at my mom and dad’s house up on the hill overlooking the groves of avocado trees. I think of Bocce ball, and floating in the pool, and long lazy meals garnished with fresh fruit, and always completed by mom’s ripe, homegrown tomatoes. From greek salads with kalamata olives to margarita pizza loaded with pesto and fresh mozzarella, each of her signature meals are completed with her prize tomatoes that grow abundantly in her carefully tended garden.
One quiet afternoon, I took my daughter along the winding brick path that led to the small collection of fruit trees and the wrought iron gate that wrapped itself around the overgrown tomato bushes. I plucked two plump tomatoes from the vine and wiped the dirt from them on the corner of my shirt. Keeping one for myself, I handed her the other, and watched her hold it in her small hands, her face transformed by a look of delight. I bit into it like an apple as the sweet and savory flavor exploded in my mouth. I nodded at her to do the same. After a reluctant bite, she began to devour it. The juice dripped down her chin and onto her white shirt as we shared a conspiratorial smile.
Whenever I see the supermarket’s perfect collection of identical red tomatoes, I add a few to the shopping cart in hopes of capturing the bright flavors of summer; but they always come up short. These mealy and tasteless counterfeits make my mouth water for the real thing. Unlike my mom’s sun-ripened, colorful and imperfect tomatoes, many breeders have cultivated a mutation in the tomato crop to make the fruits ripen evenly, allowing for a faster and cheaper harvest of beautiful and flavorless fruits.
But I realize that sometimes I too get focused on what I look like on the outside rather than my own flavor. Instead of concentrating on the process, I focus on the results. Too often our culture points our attention to appearance and results, while compromising on the means that we we get there, and the meat that its made of.
But God calls us to fix our eyes on Him and entrust our lives to Him, believing that He will take care of the outcome.
Some of my writing comes out in an easy stream, and other times it’s a long labor of love written one sentence at a time over days and weeks. Sometimes God blesses us unexpectedly, and at times we have to lean into Him in prayer and petition, and even then, things don’t turn out the way we envision. Too often I try to take shortcuts, and force my own results. I try to breed and cultivate the crop with my own hands, in my own time, rather than allowing God to harvest it; rather than waiting for it to ripen in the sun, in God’s time.
When we focus on results we concern ourselves with output rather than input. We measure our lives by the size of our salaries, how many friends we have or likes we get on Facebook, the grades on our children’s report cards, our pant size, and the make and model of our car. And no matter what, it comes up short. Because no matter how many zeros are behind the dollar sign, no matter how many friends or adoring fans we have, and no matter how desirable we are, it will only make us beautiful shells of people, with lives that other people envy, and we ourselves hate. Kind of like the big..shiny…red and utterly tasteless tomatoes at the grocery store.
Don’t get me wrong money and friendship, even popularity and fitness can all be blessings, but for me, they aren’t the sum by which I want to quantify my life.
As I drift from God with distractions and aspirations that aren’t rooted in Him, God has a way of gently drawing me back to Him. He gives me a choice whispering “you can chase after this stuff that leaves you empty, or let me fill you with My Word, My Spirit and My Grace.” I don’t want to settle for a life of tasteless tomatoes. In His Word He reminds us that if we remain in Him, by the Spirit, and by His Grace, we bear much fruit for his glory, “showing ourselves to be His disciples.” (John 15:8)