Take the Time to Enjoy the Strawberries
His lungs burn, he gasps for air and his legs struggle to find speed as he sprints towards the vine. He can feel the hot breath of the lions a few feet behind him. Their grunts and growls send a chill of fear up his spine as he leaps for the vine. A huge lion swipes for his leg, striking his calf with its razor sharp claws. He can feel the pain rush up his leg when the lion’s claw tears at his flesh. His grip tightens, panic and adrenaline sends a rush of energy and power in his muscles, so he pulls himself up the vine while the lions wildly leap and snap just below his legs.
His heart aches within his chest and his muscles tremble while he continues up the vine. He looks down at the lions circling under him. He makes eye contact with one of them as it looks up and stares at him with hatred and anger. He breaks eye contact with the beast and fights the fear that paralyzes his body. “I must keep moving,” he tells himself. He ignores his tired and fatigued muscles and pulls himself up the vine, sweat dripping from his chin.
He hears movement above him. He looks up and terror courses through his soul when he spots dozens of large rats gnawing at the vine that is connected to a large branch. He yells at them, “Go away!” They ignore him, in fact they seem to work harder on the vine. There is nothing he can do, the vine will snap and he will fall to the ground and will be at the mercy of the lions waiting below him. He wraps his legs around the vine and hugs it close to his chest as he allows his muscles to relax. He feels the exhaustion percolate deep within his soul, he resigns himself to his fate.
His eyes catch a glimpse of it for only a moment. So fast that he almost misses it. A huge red strawberry, the biggest and juiciest strawberry he’s ever seen hangs only a foot away from him. He didn’t notice it at first, because he was focused on surviving on the vine, but now, it’s in plain sight. For a moment he forgets about the rats gnawing at his vine and he dismisses the lions waiting for him. Instead, he focuses on the strawberry.
He reaches out and grabs the fruit. It’s cool to the touch as he plucks it and pulls it towards his face taking in its fragrance. His mouth salivates when he allows its fragrance to dominate his senses. He takes a huge bite from it and delights when the juices burst into his mouth sending energy and excitement into his life. His senses are heightened as he experiences the texture, the flavor, and the beauty of the strawberry. A strawberry has never tasted so good, and in that moment, he forgets about his situation on the vine and in that moment, he is truly free.
As he finishes the strawberry, he notices another vine only a few feet away. He didn’t notice it before because he was so focused on the lions and rats, but after he paused and enjoyed the strawberry a new vine appeared, another option he didn’t notice earlier. He looks down and the lions have grown bigger and meaner. He looks up and the rats have grown in numbers and are attacking his vine with a greater ferocity, it’s only matter of time, he must move on from this vine. He leaps from his old vine, full of confidence and with a new found energy from the strawberry he just consumed. He feels the strength and the promise of the new vine as he grabs onto it, leaving his old vine behind him. He looks down and there are no lions. He looks up and there are no rats, just hope for his future and he smiles as he regains his strength and climbs up the new and stronger vine to a better future.
I love that story, because it rings true for every one of us. The vine is our chosen path. It’s a series of choices that we hold onto as we climb towards our future. The lions represent our past. They are past relationships, past failures, and all the misery we left behind, but haunt us. The rats represent our perceived fears and obstacles that block our way to success. They consume our thoughts and dominate our consciousness. It’s hard to think of anything else when our past chases and claws at our flesh while our fears sabotage our future.
However, the strawberry represents what we have now, right in front of us. It’s all the good things in our life. The fruit of our labors, the blessings of our relationships, family members that love and support us, a good job situation, or a strong friendship. The strawberry represents all the things we take for granted and don’t appreciate because we are so focused on our lions and rats and so determined to climb our vine.
But when we stop and appreciate the fruit, we allow ourselves to become free of our past and fears and can begin to fully appreciate what God has blessed us with today. It’s in that moment that our eyes are opened and we begin to see other opportunities, better opportunities, which we were blind to before because we were running from our lions and fixed on our rats. It’s when we taste the fruit in our lives that we become free and allow ourselves to jump off our decaying vines and choose new paths.
I recently took my daughter out for a valentine’s date. It’s become a tradition in the Rheam household. My nine year old twin boys take their mother out for a special dinner, and I take out my daughter. This past valentine’s weekend, I was busy with life. On the day of our scheduled date, I was busy fretting about a lot of “stuff” in my life and fighting some fears I had for the future when my eyes caught a beautifully wrapped gift that my daughter was planning to give to me later that night over dinner. In that moment, I allowed myself to escape my troubles and focus on what was good in my life. My growing and evolving relationship with my daughter is one of my strawberries. I decided to cancel my plans for the rest of the day, to shed my fears, to forget about my lions, to ignore my rats and loosen my grip on my vine so that I could allow myself to enjoy a “strawberry” in my life. That night, my daughter and I had a lovely time, a memory that we will both cherish many years down the road.
Let go of your vine. Don’t allow your lions to dominate your world anymore. Forget about the rats, for they have no authority of you. Most of all remember, that we ALL have several strawberries in our lives that are just waiting to be enjoyed. Stop climbing, take a deep breath and look around you. Where are your strawberries? I’m confident there are many. They are huge, delicious, and right in front of your face. Take a moment and pick one, then enjoy it and allow peace to come back into your soul and the new vines will begin to appear. You are just beginning to scratch the surface of your beautiful future, but first, take a big bite out of one your strawberries.