It’s 11.7.11 – or in the US, 7.11.11. As that is how Jessa thinks of it perhaps I had better go along with that today as it is her day… her 21st birthday! I wrote about her actual birth day, worlds away from our lives at that time, in Welcoming a new daughter and it is still very strange to think that even only 3 months ago we were almost totally unaware of this young woman – part of Sam’s secret universe but a mere satellite on the edge of our orbit. But now her life story, her ambitions, talents, hopes and dreams, her struggles and habits, quirky character traits and loveable personality have become an intimate part of our journey, which is soon to be – if not already, in all but name and legality – inextricably joined to our family story. What a wonderful surprise! What a lift to our jaded mood – and what unexpected fruit from the years of ‘parenting’ many young people in Loughborough and beyond.
If you remember my favourite prophetic door from such posts as A new ERA, EST. 1403 and Close the door behind you this photograph will make you smile – as it did me… The house next to the notorious old door with the new ERA lock is standing empty – redecorated and awaiting new tenants! This has made me think again about the stages of a journey through into a new era – the hope and promise as sight of a coming season opens up… even many months before the reality of that season is evident! Then the inescapable battle at the gate, the newfound freedom as situations are unlocked, the need to close the past behind us to prevent old hindrances catching round our feet… and then, surely… comes the FRUIT?!
Strawberry lettings – hmmm… never seen that company before: sounds delicious! Sweet, red, summer berries – enough to make anyone want to rent a house! 😉 It surely does remind me of the 12 spies that Moses sent in to explore the promised land…
When Moses sent them to explore Canaan, he said, ‘Go up through the Negev and on into the hill country. See what the land is like and whether the people who live there are strong or weak, few or many. What kind of land do they live in? Is it good or bad? What kind of towns do they live in? Are they unwalled or fortified? How is the soil? Is it fertile or poor? Are there trees on it or not? Do your best to bring back some of the fruit of the land. (It was the season for the first ripe grapes.)‘
So they went up and explored the land from the Desert of Zin as far as Rehob, towards Lebo Hamath…. When they reached the Valley of Eshcol, they cut off a branch bearing a single cluster of grapes. Two of them carried it on a pole between them, along with some pomegranates and figs. That place was called the Valley of Eshcol because of the cluster of grapes the Israelites cut off there. Numbers 13v17-21, 23-24.
Its amazing what I discover writing these posts – thanks to Google! ‘Eshcol’ actually means ‘Bunch’ and according to Easton’s Bible Dictionary the spies explored the route which led south into the Negeb by the western edge of the mountains at Telilat el-Anab, i.e. ‘grape-mounds’, near Beersheba. “In one of these extensive valleys, perhaps in Wady Hanein, where miles of grape-mounds even now meet the eye, they cut the gigantic clusters of grapes, and gathered the pomegranates and figs, to show how goodly was the land which the Lord had promised for their inheritance.”
The spies picked up a foretaste of what was to come – they picked up the fruit that was in season: it was amazing! But as we probably know, 10 of them were put off by the challenge of having to fight for this inheritence when the odds looked stacked against them:
‘We went into the land to which you sent us, and it does flow with milk and honey! Here is its fruit. But the people who live there are powerful, and the cities are fortified and very large. We even saw descendants of Anak there… We can’t attack those people; they are stronger than we are’. And they spread among the Israelites a bad report about the land they had explored. They said ‘The land we explored devours those living in it. All the people we saw there are of great size… We seemed like grasshoppers in our own eyes, and we looked the same to them’. Numbers 13v27-28, 31-33.
Only Caleb and Joshua had the faith to believe that what was promised could actually be theirs – despite the overwhelming odds. You could say they LET the fruit speak to their hearts, they chose to believe their eyes and not their fears: here was a sign to them, just as this letting sign is to me. It points to the fact that I have my own ‘summer strawberry’ on this significant date today (2011: a watershed year) in the form of Jessica Oliver – just look at the colour of that hair! She is a new daughter from a distant land… a first-fruit of a generation of young people for which we have stood, cried and prayed, coming of age today.
Funny the things that can encourage you. I am very well aware that there is a battle to go through to get this fruit of the land – yet one bunch of grapes is enough of a sample to keep me on track. I too will LET that speak to my heart. I will ALLOW it to birth fresh faith in me.
That letting agency with their attractive board can’t really do much more to make the right prospective tenants look round their vacant property: in the same way we always have to wait patiently for fruit to grow and no amount of impatience can speed it up. We can water, we can wait for the sunshine to do its work… but there is a set season for the ripening of every kind of fruit and we can only reap at harvest-time (Galatians 6v9). However, I am encouraged that today on 11.7.11, strawberries are in season in England 🙂