This year Lucas found some on a nearby service road, and Keith picked enough for one cobbler for the first time in years. Probably because it has been awhile, I think that was the best blackberry cobbler we ever had. Maybe next year I can make jelly too.
Blackberries are a lot of trouble. The thorns seem like they reach out and grab you. I have often come home with bloody hands and torn clothing—you never wear anything you might wear elsewhere when you pick blackberries. But that is not the half of it.
You must also spray yourself and your long-sleeved shirt prodigiously with an insect repellent, and tuck the cuffs of your long pants into your socks. No matter how hot the weather, you must be covered. Without these measures chiggers will find their way in and you will be revisiting your time in the woods far longer and in more unpleasant ways than you wish. Ticks are also a problem. Make sure you pick with someone you don’t mind checking you over after you get back home, especially your hair. More than once I have had a tick crawl out of my mop of curls several hours later.
Finally, you must always carry a big stick or a pistol. I prefer pistols because you don’t have to get quite as close to the snake to kill it. Birds love blackberries, and snakes like birds, so they often sit coiled under the canes waiting for their meals to fly in. Keith has killed more than one rattlesnake while picking wild blackberries.
Because of all this, since I have Keith, I seldom pick blackberries any more—I let him do it for both of us. Especially since I stand for hours in a hot kitchen afterward, it seems a fair division of labor. When I am making jelly, straining that hot juice through cheesecloth to catch the plenteous seeds and ladling that hot syrupy liquid into hot jars isn’t much easier than picking them. But wild blackberries are worth all the trouble. Their scent is sweet and heady and their taste, especially in homemade jellies, almost exotic. The purple hands, teeth, and tongue blackberry lovers wind up with are worth it too. If all you have ever had is commercially grown blackberries and store bought blackberry jelly, you really don’t know what they taste like.
Why is it that I can make myself go to all this trouble for something good to eat, and then throw away something far more valuable because “it’s not worth it?” Why does teasing my taste buds matter more to me than saving my soul? How many spiritual delicacies have I missed out on because it wasn’t worth the trouble?
Serious Bible study can be tedious, but isn’t having the Word of God coming instantly to mind when I really need it worth it? When I have taken the time to explore deeply instead of the superficial knowledge most have, isn’t it great in the middle of a sermon or Bible class, to suddenly have another passage spring to life right before my mental eyes? “So that’s what that means!” is a eureka moment that is nearly incomparable. And while increased knowledge does not necessarily mean increased faith, faith without knowledge is a sham. Faith comes by hearing and hearing by the word of God, Rom 10:17. The more scripture you know, the stronger your faith because the more you know about what God has done for us, the more you appreciate it and want to show that appreciation by the service you willingly give.
So many other things we miss out on because we don’t want to go to the trouble—cultivating an active prayer life, socializing with brothers and sisters in the faith, helping a new Christian grow, serving the community we live in simply because we care--while at the same time we go to all sorts of trouble for earthly pleasures—sitting in the hot sun on a hard bench amid crude, rowdy people to watch a ball game; searching for a parking space for hours then walking ten blocks in high heels for a favorite meal at a downtown restaurant; standing in long lines at an amusement park, while someone else’s ice cream melts on your shirt, and at the same time juggling your own handfuls of fast food, cameras, and tickets, and trying to keep up with rambunctious children. All these things are “worth it.” Did you ever ask yourself, “Worth what?” And how long did that pleasure, or whatever your answer is, last?
I would never go to the same amount of trouble for rhubarb that I do for blackberries. That doesn’t mean I don’t like rhubarb—I make a pretty good strawberry rhubarb cobbler. But rhubarb cannot match blackberries. Spiritually, we too often settle for rhubarb instead of blackberries. You can always tell the ones who don’t “settle”—the “purple” fingers from handling the Word of God, and the “purple” teeth and tongues from taking it in on a daily basis and living a life as His servant, give them away.
As for the rich in this present age, charge them not to be haughty, nor to set their hopes on the uncertainty of riches, but on God, who richly provides us with everything to enjoy. They are to do good, to be rich in good works, to be generous and ready to share, thus storing up treasure for themselves as a good foundation for the future, so that they may take hold of that which is truly life, 1 Tim 6:17-19..
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