Actually, it was a pretty day. There were wispy clouds and a brisk and windy day. The wind was motivating. And the people flocked all over the place. Eden was never this crowded! But the kids were a hoot. They dart in and out of the rows of trees. And the little ones who would scramble up a tree to try to wrest the apple on the highest branch from its flimsy attachment. It made me remember my own early-climbing days.
There is a difference between the apple plucked from the shelf of the local grocery store and the fresh one. The store-apple does look inviting---usually shiny and picture-perfect. It masks itself as “the ideal apple.” But when you pick a fresh apple, still hanging on its branch, it is not usually shiny. But one bite tells all.
There is a freshness that something flown across country, or maybe from half way around the world, simply cannot match. Pick, polish and put right in the mouth are the only way to go first-class. It was in this awareness that the Spirit’s movement began to happen.
Being in the orchard made me spiritually vulnerable. Nature can do that to me, but it often does it to people in general. It is so much easier to be aware in the freshness of Nature than it is in the artificiality of a store. But just remember how it goes. In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. But in the beginning men and women build the store!
Being aware made me conscious of the plentitude of the place. I have no idea how many acres constitute this orchard, but it is probably on the order of 40 or 50 acres…it is big. And that means a huge number of trees. There were rows of trees---row after row. And so many of those trees were offering their fruit. The apples were just hanging there.
Literally, the trees were bearing fruit. And there were more apples than eye could see. In fact, the workers there instructed us to go into the trees, pick an apple and taste it to see if we liked it. It was an invitation to plentitude. It occurred to me that so many of us live in a context of scarcity. Surely in our world, there are people who have to do with so little. But here in the orchard---God’s garden---there is plenty. The crowd could not make a dent in how much was available. I bet 5,000 people could eat their fill and there would be baskets left over!
I was overwhelmed by an experience of grace. Certainly, the plenitude was a sign of grace. And then, I also realized I had done nothing to deserve this. I had not planted, cultivated---nothing. Of course, other people did this for me. But is that not what grace is? God and other people do things for me and I don’t deserve it is how I describe grace. Really all anyone can do with grace is accept it and be grateful. I was grateful. Gratitude filled my heart as I stood in the middle of those trees. It was so simple and, yet, so profoundly moving.
I left the orchard, but I went with resolve. I want to find the “garden of grace” in all the places I find myself in normal life. I want to look for those opportunities to offer “an apple of grace” in my daily life. And then we can all look up and say, “So be it!”