Did I mention that Beve and the girls picked strawberries yesterday? They came home with 30 pounds. Yep, thirty pounds of luscious, large, perfectly dimpled and crimson berries. The angel food cake was made, the heavy cream was whipped, and we had ourselves a feast of deliciousness. I spent so much time de-steming, cleaning and cutting berries, my hands were also crimson last night. We all love strawberries around here--at least when they're fresh and juicy. Oddly (or maybe not), I don't like strawberries in any processed form. Not strawberry jam, not strawberry candy, not strawberry popscicles. Just the fruit fresh and unadulterated. But around the curve of the week, however, raspberry season opens, and that really makes my mouth water. I could eat raspberries any way, any time. And then come the blueberries, which we have right in our own backyard--Beve bought 4 large bushes last summer and though they weren't supposed to bear fruit this year, somebody forgot to tell the plants themselves, because they are heavy-laden, my friends. Daily as we're out back, throwing tennis balls for the dog, we check their progress--their 'blue-ing up' process.
And we have one large tomato plant out on our front patio, and it makes me happy just to smell it. There's an unmistakable smell to tomato plants, evocative of summers past when we had a whole row of tomatoes growing in our garden. Just this one plant, though, is like the little engine that could--it's huffing and puffing its way toward harvest, with more fruit on it every day (I was happy when I saw the first two; now I can't even count the number of green tomatoes on it).
Wow, I really digressed today. Just can't help it. The idea of all these beautiful growing things in our own yard that will feed us in the next few months is a delight to me. A year ago, I read the book Animal, Vegetable, Miracle by Barbara Kingsolver, about her family's great experiment of trying to eat off their own land over the course of an entire year, only supplementing with VERY local foodstuffs they couldn't grow themselves. It made me really think about eating in the rhythm of the year, and trying to think about what vegetables and fruits are produced near enough that a refrigeration truck or airplane aren't needed to transport them. It's an easy proposition in the summer, when our farmers' market is set up every Saturday downtown, where today E bought me three pounds of cherries, many of which I've already consumed, cherries being another fruit I adore. Yes, we're gladly eating off the bounty of our own neck of the woods.
But I did have a point, when I began to write about the strawberries. As I was washing off the stain from my hands, I thought of the chapters in Revelation where I've been living lately--chapters 2-3, God's words to the seven churches. What stands out to me is how stained the hands of those churches were (except for Philadelphia--but I've never actually been in a church like it--my experiences have been in churches populated with just plain folks who lose their first love or are critical or are lukewarm). Churches full of sinners were those St. John addresses. A whole lot like our churches. But in each admonition, each exhortation, all is not lost. It isn't the size of the sin that will determine that church's fate, but the size of the repentance. THE SIZE OF THE REPENTANCE.
It's what God asks of His people. We tend to categorize people by sins, instinctively turn sin into some kind of hierarchy of evil (if that makes sense). But from God's point of view, the wrong we've done is far less important than our repenting of that wrong. In some ways, the Roman Catholic church has it right in the idea of confession, the notion that it's important to get right with God before worshipping Him. We are all asked to confess--to God and, if necessary, to each other. But at least to God. However, it's not repentance to simply confess. "I stole the apple pie from my neighbor's window sill" isn't enough. What is needed is "I am walking in the wrong direction, God. Please, help me turn around, and walk with You." It's not just saying we did a wrong, but wanting to turn from that wrong toward right. Admitting guilt and asking to be transformed. And..."He is faithful and just to forgive our sins and cleanse us from all unrighteousness." He takes the stain from our hands, and washes us white as snow.
I know I don't practice repentance to the degree that God intends. I don't see it as important as He does. I confess this. I repent of this. I want to be changed so that I can't bear--really can't bear!!!--the stain of sin on my hands, the dye of it across my life. I want to practice repentance like (ok, this is crude, but it works), like I wash my hands after using the toilet. To do it instinctively, automatically, with the same strong desire to be clean. To see repentance as the reprequisite to all communion with God and others.