Alan refers to rambunctious tykes as “little tarts.” I always pictured pastries filled with strawberry jam, such as the knave of harts ran off with, but it finally hit me that he’s describing flavor, not form…like the contrast of sweet with sour.The tangerine juice we made at Mike and Grace’s was not their first try. Earlier in the season, they had gathered the choicest, most beautiful orange fruitsbut result had been juice that was almost undrinkably sour (unlike mother’s milk, which truly is the perfect combination of everything wonderful for babies).An older, wiser Hawaiian friend counseled Michael to pick all the fruits, and especially the brown ones that looked a little bruised and battered or cracked open when they dropped off the tree. To the untrained eye, such fruits looked like rotten rejects, but experienced fruitiers understand that these are really the sweetest, mellowest, juiciest fruits!And so, Michael knocked down all the fruits he could find from the tree tops, and the girls and I gathered in all the fruits…both the big, beautiful orange ones and the sketchy, mottled brown ones…even the ones that split open on impact… while Grace and Cerulean looked on with curious concern.What do you think? I wouldn’t take home a pail of cherries or peaches that looked like this, would you?Well, this was one of those tests of faith! We took them all in and peeled them. We sniffed the suspect discolored ones, but out of the entire tin, we only found one that was actually turning black, smelled bad, and had to be discarded! While Michael and I peeled, the girls took turns processing the tangerines.Each time the juice catcher filled up, Michael poured it into an empty Tropicana orange juice jar (notice that tangerine juice is much oranger than orange jucie!).We just kept juicing until we’d used up every last one of those wonderful fruits!I really think that juice tasted nearly divine, and we had enough to last for days!We drank the juice straight for some good sugar shocks, but we also added it into our smoothies to give them a unique flavor burst. I’ve been reading a book called The Ragamuffin Gospel, by a recovering alcoholic, ex-catholic priest named Brennan Manning. I think my experience with the tangerines is the perfect illustration for what I believe is the main thesis in his book. We are all ragamuffins. The older we get, the more battered by life we become. Often those who look the most beautiful are actually so tart they’re hard to swallow. In fact, the ones that look like discards may actually be the sweetest and most full of potential for nourishing others.By faith, we need to gather in all the fruit of God’s vineyard (or allow ourselves to be gathered in), and let the Lord to peel us, squeeze us, grind off the dross, and pour us out to serve others, trusting that the oldest, most battered fruits are not the most useless…but more likely the sweetest and the best!
“And he [God] said unto me, ‘My grace is sufficient for thee: for my strength is made perfect in weakness.’ Most gladly therefore will I rather glory in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me” (2 Corinthians 12:9).