Before the current pandemonium began, we had the great joy of heading to Florida to see our new grandson. And there’s nothing my wife, Diana, likes more than… staying in hotels! We have learned over the years how to get a nice place for a reasonable price, never cheap hotels (too sketchy) and always with a breakfast buffet. The buffet accomplishes two things: convenience, because we don’t have to get ready and go out looking for food, and frugality, because we don’t have to drop another $20 on top of the room price to eat. Plus, unlimited good coffee, so that’s actually three things.
As we were headed back up to the room, I saw some shiny green apples and grabbed one. Diana noted that I never do that, and it’s true. But it was so pretty and shiny, and I figured it would be great to bite into its juicy deliciousness later. And that’s where my daily lessons began (we are always learning, and the best learning comes from life, not books).
You see, I must have used my memory banks relating to Granny Smith apples, or maybe Fujis. That succulent first bite, the easy snap of the skin, juice running down my beard to my chin. An apple can be a really good treat indeed, like nature’s candy. But this was not that variety. At all. As I bit in, I was sure I was about to lose teeth because it was so hard, like a raw potato. The juice was in there somewhere, but it wasn’t letting itself go and when it did it was not sweet, but bitter. Not nature’s candy, more like thinking you are about to eat a tasty chocolate and instead bite into licorice. Yeah, that was ugly, but you know what I mean.
It got me to thinking, and as I continued to gnaw that hard green globe I was reminded of the story of Eve when she considered eating the fruit:
When the Woman saw that the tree looked like good eating and realized what she would get out of it—she’d know everything!—she took and ate the fruit and then gave some to her husband, and he ate. Genesis 3:6
And, of course, everything went south from there:
Immediately the two of them did “see what’s really going on”—saw themselves naked! They sewed fig leaves together as makeshift clothes for themselves. Genesis 3:7
I think it’s safe to say we all go looking for a good life. We relish that crisp snap of a plan gone right. We desire and enjoy sweetness, goodness, joy, satisfaction. We welcome the goodness running down our beards and dripping off our chins. But then, sooner or later, we get the wakeup call. We find out we are naked, cold and ill-equipped to deal with our long lives on Earth. We find what our oldest relatives found.
Life is bitter and hard.
Right now we are in a time of crisis as a nation, as a people. Yes, there have been worse plagues, times a million. But we are so used to reaching for goodness at the buffet, to enjoying life to the fullest in the greatest country on the planet, to living in hope, that when it all comes crashing down, we are ill prepared for it. Remember 9/11? Remember the 08-09 crash? Those events, and many others, brought many of us to our knees.
Personally, I have had several near-death experiences, from cancer to heart surgeries to my most recent bout with EEE, a dreadful virus delivered by a mosquito. I am sure you, too, have struggled with health scares, relationship tragedies, the terrible loss of your closest loved ones. It’s not easy out here folks, and it takes a lot more than a motivational poster to make it right. Because all those problems, tragedies, scares, challenges – those ARE life. Where it gets real, where you learn and grow, where you rise above, is taking those challenges on and learning, growing, conquering despite them.
Truth is bitter and brings life.
Once you accept that the pretty green apple may be hard and bitter, that it may have seeds and bruises and even worms, that it’s going to be messy and it may even have parts you can’t eat, it’s then that you really become human. Because, it turns out, the title of this missive is wrong.
God DID make the little green apples.
Everything we do, every opportunity we have, every challenge we face, every trial we go through, every joy we experience, every new grandson we have and every parent we bury, all come from living life. It’s how it is here on planet Earth. You can’t have a Fuji apple without a Green Apple nearby. It’s just not how it works. I have always told my kids that “life sucks, and then you die” and that’s the truth. But there’s a hidden part in the middle, like the dash between your birth date and death date on your tombstone.
What are you going to do with that life?
No matter what you have had to go through, no matter the trials, even if you have bitten off more than you can chew, all of life is a learning, growing, strengthening, achieving event. It’s not about “winning” – it’s about staying in the game.
As I finished my hard, bitter green apple in my hotel room overlooking the pool (life is hard?) I realized that God is in it all. He’s there when life is sweet and juicy, He’s there when life is bitter and hard. Your problems, your cancer, your pain, your lack, your struggles – none of it goes unnoticed. Your joys, your triumphs, your pleasure, your success – it’s there, too. Add COVID-19 to the list – it wasn’t the first, and it won’t be the last.
So, I tossed the core of my lovely green apple into the trash can and we headed off to see our new grandson. And I realized again that one thing is true:
“I am with you always, even to the end of the age.” Matthew 28:20