Strawberries that taste like love.
Last spring my sister and two of her daughters spent eight days in China. Eight days I will remember the rest of my life. Eight days in which a part of me came alive for the girls in ways they simply couldn’t before. China was no longer just where Aunt Amy lived; it was where they, too, had walked. And eaten.
Niece Number Two loves me with a love that is fierce. They all love me, but this one, this girl, this nurturer, she loves with raw public abandon. And I love her back.
At one point in the trip she was asked her favorite Chinese food and she answered, “Strawberries.” Before you scoff, you must know that these berries are so full of flavor. They have not been coaxed to the large flavorless, shells of themselves that many berries in America have.
In the market today I told the fruit vendor I had a strange question and asked if I could take pictures of their strawberries for my niece. Once they understood and saw that I really was taking pictures of the berries, the wife called me around the corner and had me take pictures of the stacks of flats. For your niece, to show her the berries. Does America have strawberries? “We do, but not flavorful like these.” I replied. Ah, Chinese ones are better.
Yes, they are.
They taste like love.
I’m attending a conference in Chiang Mai, Thailand and this is the view from my seventeenth story window.
One picture, yet three realities.
Reality two: the rancid canal. It is dirty, smelly and as much as the pool can be seen as a reflection of what Eden was, this canal reflects so painfully, Eden lost. And lost on so very many levels. It is but a small taste of how sin has robbed creation aesthetically with literal trash tossed in it. Its productivity has been stolen as it has ceased to flow with water or life. People pick up their pace as they walk by because it reeks of what has been lost. Sadly, that is not a metaphor. This dear canal truly smells. From the street you have no idea that if you look up a mere four floors to the left, there is such a lovely place so close. However this is also …
Reality three: the bird’s eye view. This view challenges us to hold both realities in tension. It is true that Eden has been lost and that much of life does stink, is filled with garbage, and reflects brokenness. But it is also true that the Kingdom of God is now with Eden Returned breaking into Eden Lost. Eden Returned is fragrant, beautiful, and reflects God’s glory in ways that restore hope and bring the cry of a cheer from a grateful heart.
It is tempting to stay in vacation mode and want to live by the pool, denying the canal. Or become so frustrated and disillusioned with the canals of life that all you see is floating with rubbish without an ounce of hope in sight. But as believers we are challenged to have new eyes and to accept the already/not-yet-ness of life. Eden is returning but she has not fully returned yet. We must hold both as true.
Where in your life do you see elements of Eden returning and yet still lost?
The LORD God formed the man from the dust of the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and the man became a living being. Genesis 2:7Do I hear an Amen?! Probably not. OK, let me back up.
What has made me a living being? (Not who has made me living, what has brought life?) Just as Aslan walked through the courtyard of the White Witch breathing on the creatures she had turned to stone, the breath of life has made me, has made you, a living human being. Without breath we are without life. Simple, poetic, necessary. And, oh so easily, over looked by me, and I’m guessing you.
Mere days before returning to China I got a cold that settled in my lungs, making breathing painful. No longer could days pass innocently by without thought of breathing. Breath became uncomforably conscious. With the recent history of SARS and H1N1, the Chinese do not look favorably on those who travel with illness, scowling and projecting the unspoken, though very loud question, “Why have you chosen to risk our lives by being near us?” I did not cough often, yet each cough on the plane brought looks as if I carried the breath of death instead of life.
Cold, dry, polluted Beijing air did not bring quick—or actually much—healing, leaving me to hope in the healing powers of warm, moist, cleaner Thailand air.
Breathe in, breathe out.
Breathe in, breathe out. Cough. Choke. Pain.
Breath of life is not a given. Just ask Tabitha, the disciple from Joppa who was always doing good and helping the poor until she became sick and died. When Peter commanded her to get up, a miracle occurred. The breath of life returned, and arise she did!
Breathe in, breathe out.
The first night in Thailand I woke myself twice, gasping and coughing for air. The next night, I dreamed so vividly of being on a sinking ship. The ship had only women in Victorian dresses and as we prepared to drown, we were told to take off our dresses and watch them sink first. Yes, yes, I know. This is a dream that is ripe for the over analyzing. But don’t. For the second night in a row I awoke to the paralyzing sensation of not being able to breathe.
I am alive because the LORD God breathed life in my body. I am alive because the Son of God has given life where I was dead in my sins. I am alive because the Spirit of God is bearing new fruit in my character.
Breathe in, breathe out. I barely notice you, breath of life, until something is wrong in body or soul. And though this acute awareness will (sadly) pass as something else captures my thoughts and attention, today as I breathe it is with this mantra whispered:
Breath of life.
Breath of life.
Breath of life.
Thank you giver of life. Thank you for breathing life in its messy fullness into me.