Monday, August 5, 2013

Peaches


Our family loves peach season. Almost as much as we love pineapple season. Fresh fruit is such a treat. Especially in the summertime. 


On my walk home from the grocery store this afternoon, I passed a young woman wearing a shirt that joyfully announced to the world: “It’s Boyfriend Season!” And I thought about how amusing random T-shirts in China can be. Whoever could have come up with a “season for boyfriends” and put that idea on a T-shirt?

As I pondered her shirt message, I reached the bridge across from our apartment where a man was selling peaches. I was surprised that his price was about 1/3 the going rate at the nearby market. Wow. That’s really cheap. I wonder if they’re any good? I set my grocery bags down on the ground and started picking out peaches one-by-one as the man held open a plastic bag for me. I put several back that had bad spots on them and wondered. What if God picked over people the way I’m picking over these peaches? What if He turned me over in His hand for a closer evaluation and declared, “This one’s really bruised. Better put it back. I’m only looking for the perfect ones.”

But He doesn’t. Because “a bruised reed he will not break, and a smoldering wick he will not snuff out.” (Isaiah 42:3)

God isn’t on the lookout for perfect peaches to bring into His family. The truth is that He really knows us and He really loves us. Just as we are. Bruised. With bad spots. Even worm-infested sometimes. And He says, “I have called you by name. You are mine.”

Because God’s evaluation of us is not based on our appearance or our performance. He simply declares, “You are precious and honored in my sight and… I love you.” (Isaiah 43:4)

I remembered the special day two weeks ago when Charly and I got to visit the boys we are praying will soon become our sons. How we hoped that they wouldn’t think we had come to the orphanage to look them over and decide if we wanted them or not. Because when we asked them questions, I felt that they really wanted to give us the right answer.

When they were coloring I hoped they didn’t feel that they had to “perform” for us. To try to be acceptable. I hoped they could see sincere love and acceptance in our smiles and in our eyes. Because the truth is— we weren’t there to evaluate them to see if we wanted them or not. We knew that we wanted them as soon as we heard about them because we believe they were hand-selected by God for us.

We really have no idea what was going through their minds and what they thought our meeting them was all about. I hope that one day we will get to talk with them about their impressions of us that day and how they honestly felt when they met us for the first time. How I hope that we can really know them one day. Laugh together. Be real. Be a family where they can live free from pressure to try to be who they think we want them to be.

I’ve been reading Abba’s Child by Brennan Manning recently, and I really like his thoughts about our real and false identities. When we feel ashamed of our real selves, we can easily and even unknowingly hide behind a false appearance. And work hard to try to make ourselves more acceptable to people and to God.

He says: “God calls us to stop hiding and come openly to Him. God is the father who ran to His prodigal son when he came limping home. God weeps over us when shame and self-hatred immobilize us. Yet as soon as we lose our nerve about ourselves, we take cover. Adam and Eve hid, and we all, in one way or another, have used them as role models. Why? Because we do not like what we see. It is uncomfortable—intolerable—to confront our true selves. Simon Tugwell, in his book The Beatitudes, explains:

‘And so, like runaway slaves, we either flee our own reality or manufacture a false self which is mostly admirable, mildly prepossessing, and superficially happy. We hide what we know or feel ourselves to be (which we assume to be unacceptable and unlovable) behind some kind of appearance which we hope will be more pleasing. We hide behind pretty faces which we put on for the benefit of our public. And in time we may even come to forget that we are hiding, and think that our assumed pretty face is what we really look like.’

But God loves us for who we really are—whether we like it or not. God calls us, as He did Adam, to come out of hiding. No amount of spiritual makeup can render us more presentable to Him…“Come to me now,” Jesus says. “Acknowledge and accept who I want to be for you: a Savior of boundless compassion, infinite patience, unbearable forgiveness, and love that keeps no score of wrongs. Quit projecting onto Me your own feelings about yourself. At this moment your life is a bruised reed and I will not crush it, a smoldering wick and I will not quench it. You are in a safe place.”

I love that. When I read those words, my heart says, “God, let us be a safe place to those two boys. Those bruised reeds who are so precious to you. You will not crush them. And you will not pick over them like I picked through peaches today.”

Acceptable. Just as they are.
Acceptable. Just as we are.

God is our safe place. Where we can be our real selves. And simply delight in His unlimited, unconditional love for us. Amazing.

Would any of us be selected by God as being a perfect peach? Only Jesus was Perfect, the Spotless Lamb of God. The One who took our sin upon Himself and received God’s full wrath. So that we can be completely and eternally acceptable to God our Father.

Our true identity, in Jesus, is Abba’s child.

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