March 6, 2015

Thought of the Day: A Lesson from an Apple


         There it sits innocently.  My mouth is watering as I steal another glance at a juicy red apple on the cutting board.  All I can think about is how sweet and delicious that fruit will taste when I finally bite into it.  I consider just snatching the apple up right then and there, listening to what my taste buds are screaming at me to do, and biting into it rather than wasting time with the cutting board and knife.  It is so tempting.  Yet I make myself wash the apple and slice it up all properly.   “Patience is a virtue” I remind myself,  that and the fact that I am a messy eater and  would more than likely end up with apple juice all over my face.  So, I eagerly cut the apple in half.

          The first thing I’m struck with is the sinking feeling of disappointment.  The apple is rotten to the core; all but a few centimeters of the outside edge is brown.   I cut the apple halves into fourths, hoping that it’s just a section of the apple that is bad.  Disappointment again, the whole thing is no good.  I briefly think that I might be able to salvage the outer edge of the fruit.  Upon second glance I know that is a hopeless cause.  Even if I cut away the bad, the minuscule bit of apple remaining would have a tainted flavor of sickly sweet rotten fruit.   Taking the trouble to cut all that rotten away would leave you with pitiful, ugly scraps of fruit that bear more semblance to an apple that had a run-in with a lawnmower.   I deem the fruit unfit for consumption and throw it in the compost bucket.  I’m still craving some sliced apple, and dealing with my regret at not buying more than one at the store.  I stare at the bad apple in the compost, shudder, and think to myself, “Blimey, I sure am glad I didn't just bite into that!” 

You can’t tell sometimes if a fruit is rotten.  With my apple; it was not squishy or bruised, it was still shiny and perfect looking on the outside, and it even smelled good.  Looks can be deceiving.  The last time I ate a bite of fruit gone bad, it was an overripe peach that left an aftertaste of dirt in my mouth.  It was hard for me to eat a peach after that, all I could think of every time I saw one was that horrible taste of fermented peach and dirt.  I didn't cut into that peach either, just went and took a big bite of it thinking it was perfectly ripe. 

See, being hasty and making judgments based off appearances is dangerous.  It’s not wise to do it with fruit, and it’s not wise to do with people.  What at first glance may look like a great deal, a wonderful person, or a scrumptious piece of fruit may in fact be pleasing on the surface, but have ugliness and rotten beneath all that grandeur.  Take your time getting to know people before you judge them.  A Coconut has a tough exterior and doesn't necessarily look yummy on the outside with all that stringy brown stuff, but it’s the delicious white meat on the inside (that you have to work really hard to get at) that makes the Coconut beloved by so many.  Sugarcane looks like freakishly tall grass, a lot of people wouldn't even know it to look at it, yet who doesn't like sugar?   Sugar is in almost everything!   A Geode looks like a lumpy gray rock, but when you break it in half, inside there is a spectacular cluster of beautiful crystals.

How often have you looked at someone in passing and thought?

 “They must be super rich, look at those fancy clothes they’re wearing.”      

“What’s a hooker doing in a place like this?”  

“Man, I hate how arrogant those football jock types are all the time, acting like they’re so important.”

“Yup, that one’s definitely emo.”

“He looks like he’s on drugs.”

“I bet that guy’s not really homeless, he’s just looking for sympathy and some free food and cash.”

“She must be a rebellious type with that spiky green hair, tattoos, and piercings.”

“Whoa buddy, lay off the Big Mac’s already, haven’t you got a lick of self-control?”

“Little miss perfect alert!”

       The Bible talks about judging people a lot!

Stop judging by mere appearances, and make a right judgment.     John 7:24

Brothers, do not slander one another.  Anyone who speaks against his brother or judges him speaks against the law and judges it.  When you judge the law, you are not keeping it, but sitting in judgment on it.  There is only one Lawgiver and Judge, the one who is able to save and destroy.  But you – who are you to judge your neighbor?     James 4:11-12

Do not judge, or you too will be judged.  For in the same way you judge others, you will be judged, and with the measure you use, it will be measured to you.     Matthew 7:1-2

For by the grace given me I say to every one of you: Do not think of yourself more highly than you ought, but rather think of yourself with sober judgment, in accordance with the measure of faith God has given you.     Romans 12:3

…Christ died and returned to life so that he might be the Lord of both the dead and the living.  You, then, why do you judge your brother?  For we will all stand before God’s judgment seat.   It is written:  “As surely as I live, says the Lord, every knee will bow before me; every tongue will confess to God.”  So then, each of us will give an account of himself to God.  Therefore let us stop passing judgment on one another.  Instead, make up your mind not to put any stumbling block or obstacle in your brother’s way.      Romans 14:9b-13

As for those who seemed to be important - whatever they were makes no difference to me; God does not judge by external appearance.     Galatians 2:6

 It is the Lord who judges me.  Therefore judge nothing before the appointed time; wait till the Lord comes.  He will bring to light what is hidden in darkness and will expose the motives of men’s hearts.  At that time each will receive his praise from God.     1 Corinthians 4:4b-5

Do not pervert justice; do not show partiality to the poor or favoritism to the great, but judge your neighbor fairly.     Leviticus 19:15

Judge me, O Lord, according to my righteousness, according to my integrity, O Most High.     Psalm 7:8

Speak up for those who cannot speak for themselves, for the rights of all who are destitute.  Speak up and judge fairly; defend the rights of the poor and needy.     Proverbs 31:8-9

        A while back I brought Guacamole to a Children’s Church Club as part of their snack for the day.  I normally bring fruit, crackers, and some cookies for the kid’s snack; but that day I decided to try something new.  I gave them their fruit and crackers and cookie, but then I whipped out a bag of chips and a small bowl of Guacamole.  As soon as the kids laid eyes on the green stuff in the bowl and heard what it was, they made faces and loudly exclaimed that they would have none of that.  See, I knew that this would happen and I had a plan to get them to try something new.  I put down my bag of chips and bowl of Guacamole, reached into my back pocket and pulled out a pack of gum, holding it aloft for them all to see.  I wave it back and forth a bit to get their attention, and tell them that if they would try at least one chip with a bit of Guacamole on it, they would get a piece of gum.  To my surprise almost all the kids’ hands went up and there were shouts of, “I’ll try it!” and “Me!  Me!” and “I want some!”  Going around and watching them try this new food; I saw expressions change from suspicion and fear to surprise, relief, and delight.  “Wow, that’s actually yummy!”  “I like it!”  “Can I have more?”  “Can you bring more next time?”  When I left that evening, with a near gone pack of gum and an empty bowl of guacamole, I was grinning like an idiot the whole drive home.   

        No I am not endorsing bribery, merely trying to illustrate the concept of hasty judgment and how it is a foolish thing.  It takes years sometimes to get to know a person well enough to know who they are underneath that outer shell, that mask they wear in public.  Sometimes you’ll be surprised that the most delicious food is often unattractive.   I've found that some of the dustiest, oldest, water stained, weathered book covers can hold priceless stories in their pages.  Your teacher who is always so nice at school, gossips about how irritating children are to her friends.  You see a pregnant teenage girl, and you think she has no self-control, you judge her for getting pregnant so young.  If you’d just care to find out, she’d tell you she’d been raped but that she didn't agree with abortion and was giving the baby up for adoption.  The handsome gentleman, who paid for your coffee at Starbucks and was flirting with you asking when he could meet you again, has a wife and kids at home.  The old lady who you see at the store, taking forever to pay for her groceries and haggling over the price of two day old bread, while there is a growing line of impatient people behind her.  People think she’s annoying and maybe a little crazy, they’d never know she was a nurse in Germany during WWII and saved countless lives.  Take your time, be patient, slow down, walk a mile in their shoes, check your thoughts, and think things through before you act on them. 

         I find it fascinating how you can learn lessons about people from an apple.  Sometimes the lessons you try to teach, the wisdom you wish to pass on, the advice you want to have someone pay heed too - can come to fruition by a simple parable.  If I have offended in any way, I deeply apologize, that was not my intent.  I haven’t written all this with anyone particular in mind, I’m not trying to point out someone’s faults, or to shame somebody.  I just stood in my kitchen, staring at that deceptive apple in the compost bucket, and I was reminded of the similarities between that apple and judging by appearances.  I usually keep these little lessons I learn to myself; the time I learned about parenting from raising my ducks, how Lemmings and people have more similarities I originally thought, etc.  This apple just wouldn't get out of my mind, so here it is!   

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