GUEST POST – by Rob Ridler
Introduction – by Rachel Ridler
So I would like to introduce quickly a really insightful blog post that my husband has kindly written for us. As a family we have really been enjoying the free and plentiful activity of blackberry picking this year and I hope you all have too! It never fails to surprise me the ways that God will speak to us. He speaks through ordinary, everyday things, as well as through His word (most importantly!), and here is an amazing example…
Lessons from the blackberry walk
One of the most amazing things about our new house is that we back onto a canal. The scenery is beautiful, and the walk along it is great, but the single best part is that there are loads of blackberry bushes along the way! This year has been a great year for them, with new ones appearing to ripen everyday for the last 6 weeks. And Sam loves stuffing them down his greedy little face (with his first go at a sentence being ‘more black-backs’ (his word for blackberries).
I’ve been struggling to connect with God intimately for a while, and left work early one day feeling completely run down and empty. I took a whinging Sam for a walk in the rain to pick some, and God spoke to me through a most unlikely source – the blackberry bushes. Below are some of the random, rambling thoughts that He gave me as I walked (and ate!); they really encouraged me, and I hope and pray that they will do the same for you too.
- The further away from man, the better they are. I discovered that the tastiest and sweetest blackberries were the ones that were furthest away from the road. The most bitter ones are next to the road, where pollution and perhaps poor soil (due to the tarmac around) seems to have a great effect on the fruit. In the same way, there is nothing as sweet and refreshing as time with God, away from the busyness and pace of life. Making a concerted effort to spend time with Him cannot fail to bring peace, comfort, joy and a connection that is easy to miss in the hubbub of life. Take time out, even if you ‘don’t have time’, to do so. Without taking a detour from life for a few hours, you won’t get the best God has for you.
- Appearance doesn’t equal maturity. Some of the blackberries had grown huge, and yet were not ripe; slightly discoloured, or clung to the brambles for dear life. At the same time, some of the smaller berries have actually reached full maturity and have a wonderful flavour. There will be, in every walk of life, those who to all-intents-and-purposes seem to have everything together, doing well at everything and wisdom coming out of their ears. But their lives are not always as ‘together’ as they seem; they may lack wisdom, common sense, stable relationships, loving hearts etc. Don’t just look at what people seem to be doing and try and be like them; focus on becoming mature in the areas of your life.
- It isn’t always easy to get the best. By the time I went down to the canal, people had picked many of the berries close to the path. In order to get the best blackberries, I had to wade through puddles (it was pouring down with rain), rip my clothes and get countless scratches on my arm from the thorns, stain my nice white trainers with mud (which, sadly, hasn’t come out). But the blackberry and apple crumble Rach made that night was amazing! If we are going to reach for the goals God has given us, we are going to have to endure pain and discomfort. Jesus’ call to his disciples was not ‘have an amazing, painless and perfect life’; it was ‘take up your cross’. God has called each of us to serve him in some way; if we are to achieve that, we are going to face hardships and hurts. But if we can keep going, and get to the end, the reward is more than worth the pain.
- You need the right container. I hadn’t thought there would be loads of blackberries, so took a fairly small tub with me. Much to my dismay, I had filled it by two-thirds of the way down the path, and had no room for more! I missed out on so many more puddings…… How much faith we have in God will depend on what ‘container’ we have for him. If we believe He will do a little for us, and expect that, then we can’t be surprised if He doesn’t give us abundantly more than we ask. If you are believing for a church of 50, will you get a building that seats 40 in case they don’t come? Or will you get one of 100, and expect God to fill it? 2 Kings 4 gives a great example of this; well worth a read!
- Those in isolation take longer to mature. As I walked along, I noticed something really interesting. Where there was a large bramble bush, with many branches, a high percentage of the berries were mature. Yet where there was one little branch, perhaps growing through a laurel bush, there were very few berries ready. I am a passionate believer in the local church. I believe that we are all called to not just attend, but be firmly planted in one, loving and serving both the people in the church and those in the wider community without expecting anything in return. Being isolated from other Christians makes becoming more mature difficult; there is no-one to discuss the Bible with, worship with, pray for you, share problems with, serve alongside, challenge and hold you accountable…. Christianity was never meant to be an individual thing; our faith was always intended to be lived out as part of a community (hence the Body of Christ in 1 Corinthians 12). If you’re struggling in any part of your Christian life, please get connected into local church. Don’t just turn up 10 minutes after the service starts and leave before it ends, but talk to, love and serve the people there, and through that you will be uplifted, encouraged and drawn closer to God.