Updated: Oct 17, 2020
“What is that?”
I glanced in the direction to where my teenaged neighbor was pointing. I stopped raking, pulled off my work gloves and walked across the yard.
I stood amazed.
Hanging on my side of the privacy fence was a solitary, not-yet-ripe, Meyer lemon.
Our area had recently been hammered by hurricane force winds. Yet here was this lemon, hanging as lemons do, without any evidence of having endured the storm.
I knew there was a spiritual message for me.
Immediately, I thought of John 15:5:
I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing.
The fruit had held tight to the branch. The branch was secure in the vine. Still, I sensed there was more for me to glean from this word picture.
I walked back across the yard. Twigs and branches crunched under my footsteps. Hurricane Sally had been merciless. She had littered my yard with acorns, leaves, twigs, branches and large, heavy limbs. She had uprooted a tall, decades old oak tree; its trunk was bent over from the sustained winds.
Yet, the lemon was untouched.
As I cleaned up storm debris, and later, as I sat in the flickering candlelight, I pondered the lemon. What was I to learn from it?
However, my ponderings were quickly replaced by other thoughts, as I processed my experience and other take-aways from the storm.
In the height of howling winds and in the darkest of nights, God had shown me He hears my prayers and He is present. (https://www.7sycamorelane.com/post/alone-in-the-storm)
But then even that truth was shadowed as disappointment and shame began to consume my thoughts; I realized I had failed my test of faith.
A few days earlier, when it became evident that Hurricane Sally was a threat to our area, I sensed I was about to undergo a test of my faith. I had been talking-the-talk of faith, now I was being called to walk it out.
I had thought about the disciples and their reaction when a storm blew in and violently rocked their boat. Even though Jesus was asleep in the same boat, and they been with Him when He performed countless miracles, they cried out to him in fear — in distress.
Jesus Himself was in the stern, asleep on the cushion; and they woke Him and said to Him, “Teacher, do You not care that we are perishing?” And He got up and rebuked the wind and said to the sea, “Hush, be still.” And the wind died down and it became perfectly calm. And He said to them, “Why are you afraid? Do you still have no faith?” ~ Mark 4:38-40
I had challenged myself: I would ride out the storm alone. And I fully intended to learn from the disciples, and unlike them, sleep peacefully through the storm, just like Jesus. Since Sally was predicted to be a tropical storm or barely a hurricane at landfall, I had concluded that sleeping peacefully would be easy-peasy.
Then Sally ramped up to an-almost Category 3 hurricane and ever-so-slowly inched across our area in the dark of night. For hours and hours, her winds howled. And just like the disciples, I cried out.
So, based on the fact that I had cried out, I determined I had failed my test of faith…or had I?
It was then that I fully understood: the untouched lemon was a picture of God’s abundant grace.
Grace: God’s unmerited favor; not earned, but freely and generously given.
Grace. The lemon was the proof that the branch had held tight to the Vine during the storm. True to His promise, the Vine had not let the branch be severed.
Grace. Even if I did not sleep through the storm and called out to the Lord in distress, I did weather this storm differently than previous storms.
Grace. Yes, I got scared. Really scared. The storm was intense and noisy, two things of which, in everyday situations, I make every effort to avoid. But not once did I actually fear for my life.
Grace. Even though I turned on the radio to drown out the noise, I did choose to sing along and praise God in the storm. As I sang, I remembered His goodness and faithfulness to me in the past.
Grace. I sensed His protection; my home was standing strong against prevailing winds. No matter what damage and destruction the dawn revealed, I knew everything would be okay.
Grace. I may have dozed for a short while, even if it was out of exhaustion.
Grace. Then I remembered what my Sunday school teacher had shared in class years ago. She shared how she had struggled because, no matter how much she prayed or how much she studied and applied God’s word, she never seemed to ‘arrive’ in her faith walk. God revealed to her that she will not ‘arrive’ spiritually until she draws her last earthly breath and stands in His Presence.
Grace. No matter how I may feel, my branch is securely attached to the Vine.
Grace. The lemon — the fruit - reminds me, that while not yet fully mature, I am growing in my faith walk. One day, I will arrive.
Grace. In Christ, I have strength to endure any storm’s battering winds.
Grace. I am ever-grateful for God’s amazing and abundant grace.
And that lemon? I am keeping a close watch on it, waiting for it to ripen…anticipating it’s refreshment and sweetness.