As a rule, beets would not make my Top 10 list as I “choose my way through” a food buffet. But something about these beets seemed to be calling my name – perhaps because I’d been in-country less than 24 hours. “When in Galilee, do as the Galilleans,” I figured.
I had a lot to learn about local food, I discovered on Day 1 of our pilgrimage to the Holy Land. Starting with these “beets”… that turned out to be pickled figs.
I ate ‘em. But I can’t say I enjoyed ‘em all that much – no doubt, in part, because they ran counter to my expectation: not tuber, but fruit.
And pickled fruit at that. I mean, really: Why would you ever do such a thing?
Still, the older I get, the more I realize it’s good for my spiritual well-being to cultivate a mind and heart that are open to surprises. When I set expectations aside, miracles can – and do – happen.
Just one week ago, for example. My beloved SLU Billikens capped off an otherwise disappointing regular season…by winning four games in four days at the A-10 Tournament. An amazing…and thoroughly unexpected…turn of events, for even the most die-hard of fans.
Yes, the Billikens made it to the Big Dance for the first time in five years…and I celebrated all week long…believing that the next miracle must surely be possible, too – making their first-ever appearance in the Sweet Sixteen.
Alas, the Bills found themselves in a pickle on Friday night. They got beet by the Hokies – a team with an even weirder nickname than SLU’s.
My unreasonable expectation made the loss a bit tougher to take. The memory of last week’s miracle finish in the A-10 Tourney had already begun to fade. And I found myself fussing a bit more than I ought to have been.
Kinda like the big fig-fan we hear about in the gospel today:
And [Jesus] told them this parable:
“There once was a person who had a fig tree planted in his orchard, and when he came in search of fruit on it but found none, he said to the gardener, ‘For three years now I have come in search of fruit on this fig tree but have found none. So cut it down. Why should it exhaust the soil?’
Ah…but that’s not necessarily the end of the story. This holy season of Lent encourages us to try a different idea on for size. If we keep our minds and hearts open to surprises, we may just find that our orchards…our spiritual lives…are in the care of a very special Gardener:
…[who] said to him in reply, ‘Sir, leave it for this year also, and I shall cultivate the ground around it and fertilize it; it may bear fruit in the future.’
The Gardener certainly doesn’t give up on the idea of bringing forth new fruit in our lives each spring. So neither, perhaps, should we.
Let us pause now…to recall that we are in the presence of the Holy & Merciful One.