By Dianne Holland
Summer job opportunity! 9 to 12 hrs. a day, 7 days per week in a local cherry orchard. Report for work 6:00 am (ugh!) the next day. But I made it, lunch bucket in hand.
With 18 others at one of 3 chest-high conveyer belts in the orchard’s packing plant, I became a ‘sorter’ - but the self-proclaimed title ‘cherryologist’ sounds much more professional. Pick any cherry with broken skin, white stuff, damage marks etc. and drop it in the cull tray. Make absolutely sure no bad cherry plops off the end of the blue conveyor. Okay, I can handle that... Don’t know how many times I stretched way beyond my reach to hastily grab a questionable cherry about to slither over the end of the belt... kinda like saving a soul from a lost eternity before it was condemned forever.
Cherries by the thousands rolled under my twiddling, flexing fingers. A sorter across from me reached across the conveyor for a bad cherry on my side of the belt. I wanted to yell, ‘Hey, that was my cherry. D’ya think I don’t know what I’m doing?’ Unexpected angry thoughts exploded in my head. Then, being somewhat vengeful, I saw a ‘bad’ cherry on her side – and reached for it. She smiled... Then I understood. Whatever one sees that is bad, deal with it. Insight number one: how selfish and insecure one can be. My cherries indeed! Three loooong days later, with aching back, bleary eyes and exploding head, I, insightfully (?) began to see cherries as people!
There was noise, lots of it... 13 mini waterfalls all running at the same time... the sounds of many waters; conversations in a variety of languages all being spoken at the same time, cherries rollicking around in every direction. Occasional thundering shouts of ‘CHERRY JAM!’ – not the kind you eat but the kind that gets tons of cherries stuck in a machine. Running feet – immediate intervention! Don’t we need that kind of intervention now and then when we get into a jam?
The best cherries are carefully packed and sent to Cherry Heaven (i.e. to local stores and around the world for our enjoyment). We become our best when choosing Jesus. Cherries, well, they have no choice!
Now this is a perfect cherry! Shaded in a healthy tree yet exposed to just enough sunlight and rain as needed. Good colour. Good shape. Good texture. No damage. Unlike us who only find ‘perfection’ when we allow Jesus to choose us.
Hmmm – two cherries, one untimely separated from its immediate family – but hanging in anyway, and another waving its own banner – look at me! Look at me!
And these two – well, one looks really good whereas the other is damaged – but they’re still firmly attached... looking out for each other? There are lots of good people who still do that!
See this one? Looked good but lacked a little lustre. Then, when squeeeeezed ever so lightly, it’s true nature was revealed. Squishy! (Definitely a technically scientific term for fruit that is being attacked from within). You wouldn’t want it in your mouth - cull it. Thank God there’s hope for us when we’re being attacked from within or without!
The next two are badly damaged. No hope of recovery... Hard words to hear. (That’s what a doctor told me once – but he was soooo wrong! He didn’t know the God I trust...)
This one looked really good – but, check out the stem – quite brown and dead. That cherry was no longer being nurtured. Its channel for nutrients was quite dead. Gotta be aware of that nutrient channel – no Bible connection, no life. But the cherry, caught before it could wither and die, was still good and worthy of being saved for someone’s enjoyment.
This bold cherry thought it could take the whole branch as it was plucked from the tree. (See the dark bit at the end of the stem?) Never, ever pull one of those off when picking cherries. It takes 10 years to grow another. No, let’s just do what we’re called to do. When we go ahead of the Lord, well, trouble ahead!
Oh, and this poor neglected thing – hardly, no, not even a cherry. No food. No nutrition. None of the good things in life to help it grow... Can’t quite make a human analogy. Can you?
Then there are the identical twins – totally unable to be separate but each depending on the other for its source of life… Doesn’t work. Can’t depend on someone else for our relationship with God. It’s a personal thing. Neither cherry would have reached maturity*. Off to the cull tray! (*Maturity for us is when we personally acknowledge Jesus for who He really is!!)
Not sure what this one was up to... Perhaps trying to duplicate itself with that big bulge on its side and seek success all by itself? Nope. We need each other – but it’s called ‘sharing’, not ‘all about me’!
There were so many stories in my temporary cherry world, but this is my favourite! As soon as it appeared on the conveyor belt in front of me, guess what Bible verse popped into my head:
I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit within you; I will take the heart of stone out of your flesh and give you a heart of flesh. (Ezekial 36:26)
Perfectly good cherry – sweet with a touch of tartness.
Thanks for listening. Working in Michael Beulah’s Summerland cherry orchard was certainly a different experience. Thanks Michael and Darci. While meeting super people from Tasmania, Quebec, England, Mexico and Columbia, I learned a great deal, and discovered that even the simple cherry, be it Lapin, Centennial, Sweetheart (my favourite), Kootenay Special or Staccato, has a story to tell. So do we.