Sunday, May 24, 2020

Prickly Pears

Prickly Pears are a delicacy from where I come from. Both my parents were born in a tiny village, nestled in foothills in Calabria, the toe of the boot in southern Italy.
COPKPS-Prickly Pear Seed Oil

They certainly are an acquired taste, but once you have acquired that taste, they are a delicacy and worth the effort.

The problem is that they do require effort, and they do cause pain.

I have a plant in my yard in rural Australia, and the plant does get covered with fruit in summer.

The fruit is not hard to pick except for the spines. Unlike the fleshy leaves which are covered in inch-long needles, the fruit is covered in many thousands of tiny almost invisible spikes, maybe 1 mm long or less, in wart-like clumps of thousands all over the outer skin. Once they are on human skin, they cause ongoing mild discomfort and are very hard to see, and hard to pull out, so they can hurt for days.
So when I was young, it was my father who would sit outside, with his pocket knife, carefully picking up each fruit with index and thumb of his left hand, holding it at each end, then carefully cutting the top, bottom and one slit between that then allowed him to peel the skin off with the tip of his knife, enough so that the eater could pick up the centre flesh in one piece with bare fingers, and put it all in the mouth in one go, no spines, only delicious prickly pear centre.
Now that my father has died, and is with our Lord, I have his pocket knife, which I treasure, and I have happily taken on the role in my family of being the peeler.
Unlike my father, I use thick gloves, and a fork or two, anything to avoid the few spines that inevitably find the skin of my hands, no matter how carefully I try. My father, on the other hand, did it barehanded, without ever complaining, only ever a smile on his face. I can still picture him vividly, sitting in our back yard with a box of prickly pears, and the rest of us gathered around, he feeding us one by one, and enjoying our pleasure.
On a side note, I needed a pair of gardening gloves for an outside job recently and quickly put them on and completed the task. I can't remember what the job was, but later that day, a familiar discomfort was in my fingers. They were the gloves I had used a year or two ago to peel the prickly pears, and the spines had survived on the outside to cause me a second wave of suffering...

Still, I love the taste of this fruit; only mildly sweet, with a powdery texture, and seeds that you just swallow without chewing, a bit like passion fruit seeds, that you must ignore to enjoy. The taste is unique, amazing and recommended by me if you have the opportunity. Every part of this experience helps me remember my father who was a great blessing to me.

I would be surprised if Jesus had not tasted this fruit during his earthly ministry.

Who would have ever gone to the trouble and pain of trying to eat a fruit that is so protected by these tiny but very annoying spines, that can cause many days of discomfort?

The parallel I was going to make, was that, in a way, we are like prickly pear fruit to God.

For God to enjoy our fellowship, and maybe also for us to enjoy each other's fellowship, we must, sooner or later, endure the prickles, to find the treasure inside.

But this is not an accurate comparison.

Unlike the prickly pear, we are rebellious both outwardly and inwardly.
There is no treasure to be found within, only more prickles, more painful, more ugly than those on the outside. If this offends you, it is not intended that way, it is a simple conclusion I reach when I honestly examine myself, even as a professing Christian of many years.
Yet God endures our rebellion and utter contempt of him, and still sends his one and only Son, who endures the cross, which truly represents our rebellion and disobedience, in order to make us part of him, part of God, washed, sanctified, justified, adopted and truly loved.

No one in their right mind would endure peeling a prickly pear in order to eat bitter, ugly, poisonous fruit within. No one, other than our Lord.