A Lesson In Raspberry Picking

Author: C. Therese Benoit

Veritas Contest 2000 - Selected Story

It was the first summer in our new home, the second week in July; and I had noticed that the black raspberry bushes were teeming with fruit. So early one morning while my family slept, I put on my old gardening sneakers, doused myself with insect repellent, and set off with an old plastic container to start harvesting.

I'd never picked raspberries before, and the bushes had not been tended to at all. I never weeded or pruned them. They had been abandoned, left to grow and produce fruit naturally. And what an abundance of fruit! My first thought was, "Oh, look how generous God is for he feeds us with much more than we could possibly eat!"

The morning was cool, the grass dewy, yet the sun promised a hot day within a few hours. The scent of honeysuckle from nearby vines wafted toward me in a gentle breeze. The birds were all singing joyously, a symphony of cheeps, chirps, coos, and whistles of cardinals, mourning doves, blue jays, and all the others I had yet to identify. Nature, in all it's glory was awake, and I, the lone human, felt blessed to be there among them.

I began to pick the raspberries and soon became overwhelmed by the large amount of fruit, great clusters upon clusters of berries, some deep within the bushes, some within easy reach. All were of varied colors from pink to maroon to the darkest black. And as I picked, I heard a voice deep within me say, "the harvest is abundant, but the laborers are few".

"Yes", I agreed to that voice; and suddenly the raspberries were no longer fruit to be picked, but rather souls to be saved. And from that moment on I became a laborer for God, harvesting souls, listening to the voice as it taught me the way of harvesting.

The work was painful at times because of the many thorns which scratched my bare arms and clung to my T-shirt, tugging and pulling at me. "Yes, God's work is not easy. With the joy of success comes the difficulty of the work itself."

"Yes, Lord", I found myself responding.

At times, swarms of tiny insects fluttered in front of my face despite the armor of insect repellent. To this, the voice said to me, "Ah yes, remember that though you put on the armor of God, the evil one and his followers will try to distract you, hoping to discourage you enough to give up."

"Yes, Lord", I responded, and ignored the tiny insects.

I became oblivious to my surroundings as I picked every berry that was at least a deep maroon in color. And the voice within me spoke again:

"Look into your bowl, it is almost full. Yet there are many that are not ripe yet. In your zeal, you have picked unripened fruit and they will be bitter. Be patient, come back tomorrow and they will be fully ripened. They will come off the vine very easily."

"Yes, Lord. "I obeyed, picking only the deepest black berries, and they dropped right into my hand.

These lessons continued throughout the week, the voice instructing me continuously as I harvested.

"You've got the ones in easy reach, don't forget those that are deep within the bushes. Get down and look hard and you will find them. Don't mind the thorns, they will be there always, trying to keep you from reaching the ripened fruit.

"Now be careful, in your zeal to reach those very hard to reach, you have let some of the ripened fruit slip through your fingers. Put them in the bowl right away where they will be safe.

"See that cluster that is on the ground? It is still attached to the vine. Do not ignore it. See? It's ripe and juicy and still good. It was not too low to be saved.

"Oh look! Some ripened fruit have fallen off the vine onto the ground! But they can still be saved. They just need to be cleansed with water and they will be good.

"Now look deep into the bushes and notice that no matter how much you try, the fruit cannot be reached. There are too many obstacles to get to them. Leave them there and they will either die on the vine or be eaten by the birds. You've done the best you could do. Let them be."

And with each instruction, all I could say was, "Yes, Lord."

When the week was over, and all the raspberries had been picked, I found that I had collected over ten gallons of fruit.

"Yes", the voice within me said. "The harvest is plenty, but the laborers are few. But look at what just one laborer can do!"

Veritas, 2nd December 2010