Long, long ago, and not so far away, I learned a memorable lesson from the joys and sorrows of Northwest berries.
My uncle and aunt lived on an Oregon farm surrounded by tangled blackberry bushes. Around the perimeter of their property, the berries were easy picking. After a few days, however, the immediate gratification of that bounty became harder to find. Deeper into the thorny thicket, I could spy larger, more luscious beauties. But, how to reach them was the question.
Since a suit of armor was unavailable, my ingenious mind hit on a brilliant answer. Running to the barn, I found several wooden planks and hauled them out to the berry bushes. Placed on top of the brambles, they allowed me to carefully crawl up and over to where the clusters were plump and bursting with fragrant juice. Pleased with my achievement, I spent the next few minutes enjoying the fruit of my labor, swatting aside an occasional yellow jacket wasp. And then I spied the real mother lode. Not two feet away, tantalizingly close, were the biggest and best berries I’d ever seen.
I could have yielded not to temptation and retraced my steps. I did not, and therein lies the object lesson of this story. Stretching far out over imminent danger, I had just about touched paradise when the board tilted. Peter walked on water. I walked on air. We both suffered the consequences.
I’ve done belly flops off a diving board, taken tumbles from skateboards and bicycles, fallen into trash receptacles. Nothing compares to the swan dive into blackberry bristles that day.
When you are embraced by hundreds of thorns, you don’t move. Neither did I. Every effort to dislodge one painful dagger brought several more spikes into play. And then there were the wasps, which found my juice-covered hide a delightfully unexpected summer picnic.
Cousins came flying in response to my frantic yells. My memory of the aftermath may be a bit fuzzy, but I think I now understand the frustrations of a dog who wages war with a porcupine.
I still love berries. I’ll take a fresh blackberry pie over almost any other dessert. But I have a healthy respect for the context in which they are found. Beautiful berries and fragrant roses mix their rewards with pain if not treated with care.
I think about that sometimes when things beyond my reach beckon. Is it worth the risk, I wonder. Do I need to step out in faith beyond my comfort zone? And, if I step out, if I put my toe in the water, will it part? Or will I be caught up in the flood and cry out like Peter, “Lord, save me!”
Scriptures remind me that I am prone to plan my own demise. “There is a way that seems right to a man, but its end is the way of death,” intones the wise man. But inspiration also affirms that with God, "all things are possible."
We are created for pathways of faith, not foolishness. But that faith is linked to our hands stretched high toward the grip of the Master. Any walk into the unknown is best done hand in hand with Him.