words and images:Jessica Sowards
Tonight, my son Ezra ate a pear.
As I stood over the charcoal grill cooking dinner, he sat on the back porch steps and ate a pear. He had asked me to cut it into slices so he could easily share it with Journey, our pet pig. So I did. And he sat on the steps sharing with her. He’d eat a slice, she’d eat a slice. Then, with a shout, he found the seeds.
Mom! I can plant these! I can dig and plant these and make more pears!
My muscles hurt this evening from the time spent clearing my garden plot today. Our greenhouse is bursting forth with life. I felt proud of his idea. I knew it was, in itself, the fruit of the seeds I’d planted in him, but then he held out his sticky little hand. His sweet hand, the one that I held for the first time almost exactly four years ago. In it, I saw three small, black seeds, all badly damaged by the knife that sliced the pear, the knife that simply thought of the fruit as a snack, not a vessel of promise.
Oh, Ezra. I’m sorry, honey. Those seeds can’t grow. See, they are damaged.
He wouldn’t hear me. He’s passionate, you see. Persistent and borderline bullheaded, with all the zeal one must have to change the world. He dismissed my wisdom as petty concern and pulled on his boots. I knew where he would go, and he did. Straight to The Digging Spot, a dusty hole the boys have emptied and filled more times than I know. With the pig hot on his heels, he ran towards his goal in the way small boys do, all the while talking about how nice it would be to have a pear tree of his own.
We can pick pears all the time, every day. We can eat pears and not even have to go inside. We can even climb my pear tree and eat pears while we climb. Mom, you can even make pear jam. We will have all the pears.
We will have all the pears.
I could see the certainty on his face as he knelt at The Digging Spot. He swiped at the loose dust and dropped the seeds with as much expectancy as I’ve ever seen anyone plant anything. And then, without a single moment of warning, Journey the pig slurped up Ezra’s damaged pear seeds. She chomped happily and then sniffed for more, walking away when she was sure that all was left was seedless, dusty dirt.
One single, very pregnant moment of realization hung in the air. And then Ezra began to cry. He cries with as much passion as he dreams, with as much tenacity as he tries to see his ideas into fruition. He cried and he cried. And I held him for a while, and just let him lose the idea that a wonderful pear tree of his own would grow out of The Digging Spot. And when I felt he had had the proper moment to mourn his idea of things, I told him what I knew.
We have a pear tree. Did you know that?
He didn’t know. Of course, he didn’t. He was just a baby when we planted it, three years ago when we first moved onto our farm. And though it’s grown to stand a few feet taller than me, it hasn’t reached a point of bearing fruit. He wanted to see it, so we took a walk through the gate, back to the yard where the chickens free range, and I showed him.
He laughed. With the stickiness of pear still clinging to his hands, he covered his smiling mouth and laughed.
I can’t believe it! I didn’t even know! I didn’t even know this tree was a pear tree.
I laughed with him. We talked about what we would do with all our pears. How we would make jam and share them with the animals, even with the silly pig. Then he spotted the broody hen leading her trail of chicks into the coop and ran to see her. And I was left by myself, standing at the pear tree.
The first time I remember hearing God was in a steak house bathroom at one a.m. on a Saturday. I was eighteen, working a job I hated, and on that particular night, I’d landed the noxious task of cleaning the women’s restroom. It seemed that night had produced an especially awful mess to clean. Each stall was worse than the last. Trash on the floor. Clogged toilets. Overflowing trash bins.
When I got to the last stall, I wanted to cry. I was tired and felt like throwing up. Trying to steel myself for whatever filth laid behind the stall door, I leaned my head against it. And I prayed. I was just finding God then. Raised in church but never having really known Him, I was just learning to talk to Him. And in that bathroom at one a.m., I said something to God without even thinking it through.
If you really love me, let this stall not be so bad.
Immediately, I repented. I knew better. I’d learned in church, don’t test God. You can’t say stuff like “If you really love me.” I told Him I was sorry.
I don’t mean it. I know You love me. I’m sorry. You sent Your son. You love me, I know. Your love for me has nothing to do with the mess in this nasty bathroom.
And I swung open the stall door.
It was clean.
Trash empty with a fresh bag and all.
Why? Because I had already cleaned it.
I was so tired I’d forgotten.
I stood in the doorway of the clean stall, half shocked and wholly wooed by a God, Who was showing me His complexity for the first time. He was showing me that He could use any means to answer prayers. Sometimes, the answer would be right in front of me, sometimes He would do it through my own weakness, but all the time, it would point back to Him and His glory.
Like a lightbulb coming on, I realized that He knew my prayers and requests before I even asked. But He did want me to ask. He wanted my real heart and my real thoughts, not some churchy script. He even wanted me to say the wrong things, as long as I was talking to Him. And as the realization washed over me., I laughed. Standing in the bathroom at one a.m., I laughed with God at myself, and I laughed at His goodness.
Tonight, beside a pear tree that was planted three years ago, I watched my son laugh at the provision that had already been made for him. So much like I had laughed that night in the clean bathroom stall. Except this time, I had the view of the parent.
He’s too young to know the power of the analogy that just took place.
Of course, the spiritual picture painted in my sweet Ezra tonight would be obvious to anyone looking for it. The son unwilling to listen to the voice of his mother’s wisdom, like we are so often when wisdom instructs us. The damaged seed, like our futile efforts to do things without God. The unfit ground, The Digging Spot, that old place that is easy to dig in because the brokenness of the ground, but fruitless for the same reason. The dreams dropped before the swine, the swine consuming a dream not out of malice but because it is, after all, a pig.
The voice of God is there. Clear as day if our eyes are open, and it’s there every day in one way or another. He is speaking. Concerning Himself with our concerns.
Moving on our dreams.
Speaking to our hearts.
In backyards and bathrooms.
Before we even ask.
Follow Jessica @thehodgepodgedarling.blogspot.com.