By Deb DeArmond

January is National Artichoke Month. I love artichokes. The form and shape of the artichoke is quite lovely, architecturally speaking, and I think they’re one of the best veggies God ever made. I came to appreciate them late in life—introduced to their wonderfulness by my 10-year-old nephew. I became a fan quickly.

I would love to meet the man who decided, “I think you can eat that, and I’m going to try.” What could have possessed such an undertaking? So much of the “fruit” is not really edible. In fact, not only is it not edible, it’s kind of icky. I’ll bet the first time he hacked into it, he discovered the fuzz in the middle could choke a horse. The pointy, thorn-tipped leaves aren’t terribly friendly either. Consuming the leaves themselves (save for the little pocket of yumminess at the base) deposits a bitter taste on the tongue.

To get to the truly best part—the heart—you have to do some cutting and pruning, some scooping away and cleaning out. But pursuit and patience reveals a lovely nugget, full of flavor—a smooth, almost creamy delight. Delicious.

It’s worth the effort, but you’ve got to work for it. You are rewarded when you are willing to take the good with the bad.

Sounds familiar. Have you ever encountered folks with a few sharp edges and spiky points that might encourage you to keep on walking if you weren’t willing to take the good with the bad? Some are quick to aggravate and agitate simply by their presence, like the spiky purple center of the artichoke.

How easy is it to discard the whole thing, instead of digging deeper to secure the prize that lays in the heart?

That’s what Jesus did for me. He saw me, saw my spiky points and unlovely parts and loved me anyway. His Spirit did some cutting away, some pruning, and scooping out the junk that kept me so bound up. He revealed a beautiful heart, wholly of His making, that had been hidden. And now, on a daily basis, he asks that I do that for others. To look past the “stuff” that masks the true identify; to take the good with the bad.

Ugh. It’s not easy.

For me, an example in my life of taking the good with the bad is my travel schedule. The good is that when I’m traveling, I’m working, which I need to do. The bad, however is present as well. Traveling brings out the worst in many folks. Long lines fiddle with impatient passengers. Rudeness seems to be the language of the airport. The seats are too narrow, the overheads stuffed full, and the oxygen is too thin for clarity of thought.

Just last week, as I made my way down the aisle toward my exit row seat, the flight attendants were pleading with folks to step out of the aisle and let others pass so that we could depart on time. As I arrived at my seat, I stepped into the row and out of the aisle as requested. I set my briefcase and purse, along with a cardboard tube on my seat, so that I could shrug out of my jacket. Immediately, from the rear of the plane, I heard a woman shout, “Ma’m! You can’t keep that tube under your seat. You have to put it in the overhead!” It was the flight attendant. I looked up, and she repeated herself. Louder this time.

“Yes, I’m aware of that,” I said. “I was simply stepping out of the all important aisle to allow others to pass. As requested.” Spiky point. Sharp edges.

I placed my belongings in the overhead and took my seat. I was irritated. It was rather embarrassing to have her yell at me from ten rows away. Me, a seasoned traveler, who knows the rules and works hard to stay within them. Just what was her problem? Bristle, bristle.

We buckled up and rolled to the runway, bursting into the sky on time. Right on time. With my offending tube tucked safely into the confines of the overhead compartment. The traveling public was safe.

The takeoff was smooth and I nodded off briefly. I awakened just in time to request coffee off the beverage cart parked in the aisle. “I’m giving you two packs of cookies because I yelled at you.,” said the flight attendant. She placed her hand on my shoulder and said, “I’m so sorry. Please forgive me.” She smiled.

And there was the Spirit of the Lord, having to scoop out my bristly stuff, to get to my heart, so I could be reminded that we are all human. So very human. Trim off that sharp point. Get to the heart and give it a little CPR. Get grace and mercy back on line, resuscitate patience.

“No problem,” I assured her. “It was no big deal.” And it wasn’t, but I had let it take up way too much time as a resident in my heart. Annoyed. Impatient. Snarky.

If you are 50+ and have walked with God for many years, you may recall the familiar lines from a song popular in the church:

We are one in the Spirit
We are one in the Lord
We are one in the Spirit
We are one in the Lord
And we pray that all unity
May one day be restored

And they’ll know we are Christians
By our love, By our love
Yes, they’ll know we are Christians
By our love

How will they know me if I allow the sharp pointy edges to cut and the bristles to choke out any hope for being Jesus with skin on? What if they’re not willing to see past those flaws and push on to see my heart? And it’s not their job to have to search for it in me. I am a follower of Christ; it should be evident.

The definitions of love in 1 Corinthians 13 include:
• Love is patient
• Love doesn’t get puffed up (bristly?)
• Love’s not rude, doesn’t seek it’s own and is not easily provoked

According to that standard, today wasn’t so great. But tomorrow could be better. God expects us to reflect His great love for us. He pursues our hearts relentlessly, pushing past the bristles and sharp edges. He takes us, daily, the good with the bad.

As I exited the plane, she stood in the door, wishing us all a great afternoon. I smiled at her. She smiled back. I felt a sharp edge smooth over, a bristle become soft. He’s there. Doing His work in my heart.

Thank you Lord. Scoop away.

Deb DeArmond: Deb is wife to her high school sweetheart, Ron, who showed her the path to become a Christ follower 38 years ago. Mom to three incredible sons. Gigi to two perfect grandboys. But Jesus is her favorite, and the guys have learned to live with it. Speaker. Author. Entrepreneur. She is a transplanted Californian who has been a proud Texan for almost 8 years and she loves the Lone Star state!

She is optimistically mid-life and excited about the next stage of life and what God has for her now. She longs to see experienced women find their passion and place in the body of Christ, show up and finish strong. One of Deb’s favorite quotes comes from author Agatha Christie, who said, “I have enjoyed greatly the second blooming… suddenly you find – at the age of 50, say – that a whole new life has opened before you.”

13 Comments

  1. 1-14-2013

    Great words, thank you Deb. I’m so glad I read your post so early in the morning; it will be in my thoughts all day and will help me be soft-hearted to those around me. Holy Spirit is faithful to His word.

    • 1-14-2013

      He is always faithful. Being soft-hearted is a daily challenge and an hourly opportunity!

  2. 1-14-2013

    Deb! I love this. Such a great reminder to BE the light, not to be darkened by it. Thanks for being such a great example!

  3. 1-14-2013

    Thanks Jesi- always glad when my foibles are useful for something good!

  4. 1-14-2013

    Been there, so quick to become prickly or see the prickles in others. Thanks for the reminder to show love instead of irritation! Hope you are well.
    Reci

    • 1-14-2013

      Thanks, Reci. You’re right – I can go zero to 60 in a blink of an eye. No excuses, I can do better and am determined to do so!

  5. 1-14-2013

    Deb, this was such a good word!
    thank you so mucho
    Sue Caldwell

    • 1-14-2013

      Sue, always good to connect with you- glad you enjoyed the article.

  6. 1-14-2013

    Deb, I really appreciated this post…the content, but also the manner in which you conveyed it. Your reading falls easily on the eye, but penetrates the heart. A unique gift.

  7. 1-14-2013

    Penny – thanks for the encouragement. I am grateful for His gift, entrusted to me. Your feedback makes my heart happy.

  8. 1-14-2013

    Wonderful Deb! Your writing gets better and better. Each time I point my finger at someone I find it getting pointed right back at myself.

  9. 1-15-2013

    Great article, Deb!

    • 1-15-2013

      Thanks Peggy, appreciate the encouragement. Miss you, friend!

Leave a Comment