Lessons from the Produce Aisle

aisleI often work with and write for churches and ministries. Sometimes, lessons and reminders come in some odd places…like the produce aisle. Walking through the store’s produce aisle can be filled with a variety of colors, textures, and aromas. However, not every color, texture, and aroma is pleasant. Let’s take a stroll together and perhaps learn something about ourselves, our ministries, and the people we live and serve alongside.

The Mushy Apple. Sometimes fruit is picked too early or left on the shelf too long. The result is a tart, grainy, unpleasant fruit that is past its prime. In ministry, people live and serve in their prime when they’re in the center of God’s will, but it involves constant vigilance and adjustments. Discovering who God created us to be is a continual process. Even when we know the gifts He has poured into us, God will often instruct us to use them in different ways with various situations and people. Life in ministry isn’t predictable, because God wants us to rely on Him through an ever-deepening relationship.

The Limp Lettuce. Sometimes fruit is mishandled. When attention isn’t given to the proper temperature, storage, and transportation, the end product isn’t as excellent as it can be. In ministry, something similar happens when we mishandle people, including ourselves. Even good intentions of forming teams can negatively affect the outcome when we quickly assign people to roles without listening to their passions or when we fail to consistently evaluate and make necessary adjustments. We must be disciplined in the process of ministry, and we must be intentional in disciplining people.

The Infested Plum. Sometimes fruit is exposed to something that feeds and breeds on a vulnerability. Once fruit flies find the fermenting sugar in a piece of fruit, they quickly multiply and infest the entire box, crate, or shipment of fruit. In ministry, even the slightest vulnerability can attract a small issue that initially goes undetected but soon multiplies out of control. In order to avoid infestation, we must commit to vigilant examination. Focusing on spiritual health involves detecting anything that’s potentially unhealthy. Early detection is key.

The Leaky Watermelon. Sometimes fruit is damaged but still looks good on the outside. A hard bump against each other might create a small crack in the rind. It looks fine at first, but with each jostle along the journey to the produce shelf, the crack slightly shifts until the inside begins to leak. In ministry, people often look fine on the outside, but bumps along life’s journey can create problems when undetected. Just because someone looks okay on the outside doesn’t mean the inside is okay. We need to pay attention to and care for people around us.

The Baseball Peach. Sometimes fruit hasn’t been given enough time to develop, so even when it’s on the produce shelf, it’s not ready to be savored. In ministry, we need to trust God’s timing. We often want to be ready for something more quickly than God’s timing. We sometimes want to put off something longer than God intends. We don’t’ decide God’s perfect timing. We simply respond in obedience every time.

The Grape Cluster. Sometimes fruit seems to multiply. We don’t find just a single grape hanging on the vine. Grapes grow in clusters. When a vine is damaged, an entire cluster of grapes suffers. When the growing conditions are excellent, the entire cluster of grapes is scrumptious. In ministry, we need to cluster with others. We need to pay attention to how those around us are doing, because we affect one another. The growing conditions we’re in are similar to the growing conditions of those closest to us. We want to grow healthy together.

The Needy Strawberry. Fruit needs tender-loving care and attention. Strawberries are time-intensive fruit. In ministry, we tend to label time-intensive people as “too” needy, yet in reality, each of us needs time, tender-loving care, and attention. God knows the perfect growing conditions for each of us, and we can trust Him through the process. Being needy isn’t necessarily bad. When we trust God for our needs – and for others’ needs – we grow in His timing and care.

The What-Do-I-Do-With-This? Some fruit is lesser known and used: goumi, loquat, rowan, medlar, guarana, and so on. Fruit doesn’t have to be “common” to be delicious. In ministry, we often limit ourselves by the best-known programs, people, and approaches, but God’s creation is rich in variety. He gives purpose, beauty, and taste to everything He creates. Explore the variety among and within the people around you, including yourself.

A tree is identified by its fruit. Figs are never gathered from thornbushes, and grapes are not picked from bramble bushes. (Luke 6:44)

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