Each Autumn my family and I set aside a day in which we go to one of the big farms in Northwestern New Jersey. My wife will pick up a large container of honey that lasts us the whole year, we’ll get lost in a corn maze for an hour or two. We’ll come home with bags of apples, some fresh apple cider, and who can say ‘no’ to apple cider donuts?
We love many things about these day trips to the farm, but one of our favorite things to do is pick out pumpkins that we’ll take home.
But picking out a pumpkin is not something that is done casually in our house. Great care is taken as we walk the field. Each child in search of an orange fruit that meets their particular criteria.
Is it big enough? Is it too small? Is the shape right? How is the coloring? Are there weird bumps?
Each child has a different set of qualities they are looking for in a pumpkin. Some of those qualities may overlap, but there isn’t a truly universal preference.
I wonder what it’s like to be in the pumpkin’s shoes. Hoping to be chosen by the little kids, or the grown adults wandering amongst them. Do they wonder if they’re good enough? If they are the right coloring? If they are the right shape? Do they wonder if they’re good enough to be chosen?
I wonder what it’s like to be in the pumpkin’s shoes. Hoping to be chosen by the little kids, or the grown adults wandering amongst them
I never thought that I would be empathizing with a pumpkin, but man, we can relate to that orange fruit sitting alone in the dew of the morning, can’t we?
How many times have I wondered if people would like me? In the fields of the schoolyard, hoping that I’d be picked for a team even though I was the smallest kid there. In the dating scene, hoping that someone would find my face attractive, and that my personality wouldn’t be too off putting. Wanting to make the right first impression so that I would be accepted, so that I would be chosen. Moving, changing jobs, going to new schools, would I be able to make friends? Would people like me? Would they be judging me off their first impression? Try as I might, I knew my first impression wouldn’t always be what I hoped it to be, but would it be acceptable? Would my lasting impression leave people with a bad taste in their mouth?
Like the pumpkins in the field, I wonder if people will notice my lumps. If they’ll see how my coloring isn’t just right. Will they notice that I’m not as round I want to be? Or, maybe rounder than I should be. Right? Will people notice I’m not as big as I’d hoped I’d be?
But even worse, will they notice my rot?
Because that’s always the killer, isn’t it? How many times have we found what we thought was a great pumpkin, only to bend down, pick it up, and realize that it’s rotting. The rot was hidden at first. It was on the bottom of the pumpkin, or on the side where it’s hidden from the sun from the light, where it was harder to see it. But when we get closer, when we inspect closer, the rot becomes apparent. And that’s a deal breaker, isn’t it?
The rot was hidden at first. It was on the bottom of the pumpkin, or on the side where it’s hidden from the sun from the light, where it was harder to see it
In our house, we can deal with any preferences each of my children may have towards a pumpkin. We’ve got a big van; you can pick out the biggest one you want. It can be small, green, orange, white. It can have a long stem, or a short one. It can be full of little bumps. It can have an endearing disfigurement, and we’ll take it home. Dad’ll allow it.
But if it’s rotten? If it’s rotten, that pumpkin stays in the patch. Because I have no ability to overcome the rot. I can’t cure it. Once the rotting has started, I can’t fix it. It’s too far gone. And so, once a pumpkin has been selected, once a pumpkin has been chosen by my boys, dad comes and inspects the pumpkin, searching for rot.
A pumpkin got by me one time. We got it home, and we began cutting into it, only to find out that it had just started rotting from the inside. The outside was pristine. It was firm, there was no coloration changes that showed the pumpkin was rotting. But when I cut inside, and we removed the top, we saw that the inside was black. The rot had fully set in. We had to toss the pumpkin. We had chosen, poorly.
And so, the pumpkins in the patch stand as a representation of each of us. Not always happy with our shape. Maybe not as visually appealing as we would like to be. Hoping to be chosen. Hoping that our rot doesn’t show. For that is one thing the pumpkins in the patch have over us, isn’t it? They aren’t all rotting yet! But we are. Each of us is a sinner. Doesn’t matter if we are sitting in the pew, or standing at the pulpit, we are all sinners.
For some of us, the rot, the sin in our lives is clearly visibly to all. Much as we may not like it, it’s on the outside. Our struggles in relationships. Our inability to control our tempter. Our battle with our vices, our giving into temptation is not easily hidden. It’s reflected in our relationships. It’s apparent in our interactions with others. How we treat our neighbor, how we treat ourselves, how we treat our God. For some of us the rot is on the outside.
For some of us, the rot is hidden, and on the inside, isn’t it? For some of us, we are able to keep our life in order. We’re able to keep things the way that they’re supposed to be, the way society, the church, our friends, our family, the way that those in our lives expect it to be. They can see how we are functioning on the outside, and we’d get a thumbs up.
But they can’t see the inside, can they? They can’t see the sin of our hearts. The sin in our minds. They don’t see the envy, the rage, the disrespect, the idolatry, the pride just to name a few of the many sins that are present in our hearts.
But our God can. And our God does. We can’t fool him like that pumpkin fooled me. He is not unaware of our rot. God is not unaware of our sin. The sin may be on the outside. It may be on the inside. He knows about it. He sees it. And it is offensive to him. It hurts him. For every instance of rot in our life is a rebellion against God.
How are we doing with that? How are we doing with recognizing the hurt, the sin, the rot in our life, not being able to do anything about it, not being able to clear the rot up ourselves, knowing that God can see the rot even better than we can, that it is repugnant to him, that it is insulting to him, that it is an act of rebellion against the one who is wandering the patch looking for pumpkins to gather unto himself, how are we doing with that?
The sin may be on the outside. It may be on the inside. He knows about it. He sees it. And it is offensive to him. It hurts him. For every instance of rot in our life is a rebellion against God
God is looking for pumpkins to adorn the halls of eternity. To live forever in the utopia that he has prepared for us. How do we feel, knowing that our rot, our sin, disqualifies us from such a future? For there will be no pumpkins rotting on the heavenly doorstep.
As we wrestle with the answer to that question, may we be encouraged by Paul’s words to the church in Thessalonica.
2 Thessalonians 2:13,14 “But we ought always to thank God for you, brothers and sisters loved by the Lord, because God chose you as first fruits to be saved through the sanctifying work of the Spirit and through belief in the truth. He called you to this through our gospel, that you might share in the glory of our Lord Jesus Christ.”
Paul writes to the church, stating how he is so thankful to God for them. He calls them loved by the Lord, and then comes that fantastic reminder that they have been chosen. The people in the church of Thessalonica were just as rotten, inside and out, as we are today, and yet we see that God chose them. They may not have liked their lumps, form or coloring, and yet God chose them. Their insecurities were not stumbling blocks to God. They were saved through belief in the truth, and that the Holy Spirit is at work, sanctifying them. The Holy Spirit is at work, shaping them, molding them, making them more like Christ, and dealing with the rot in their lives.
And this is true for us today as well. God is the only one who can deal with our rot issue. And he dealt with that by sending his Son. He dealt with that by sending Jesus, who came and died, taking our rot upon himself, and conquering it. And through belief in him, we are cleansed. Through faith we are saved.
God is the only one who can deal with our rot issue
The journey for the pumpkin does not end once one of our boys has plucked it from the patch, loaded it into a wagon, transferred it into the van, and then it has been dumped off in the garage. My wife and I will choose a night in October, and we’ll spend the evening carving the pumpkins. The boys will each choose a design, be it a face, or an animal, or a series of swirls, maybe a cartoon character. And I’ll do my best to draw this design onto the pumpkins of the younger boys, the older boys take care of their own now. And then we carve them up, and put candles in them, and set them on our doorstep for the world to see.
Now you and I, fellow pumpkins from the patch, we do not carry the designs of my boys around for the world to see. Thankfully.
But like the pumpkins in our house, the journey does not end with the God choosing us. The journey does not end when we come to faith. That is only the beginning. For our God is at work in us. Shaping us. Molding us. Sometimes, most times, it’s not an easy process. It involves some pruning, cutting away. Being given the image of Christ is often uncomfortable and hard. But it is good. It is right. It is one of the ways that God is at work in our lives. And though he is not finished with any of us yet, he has given us his light. That we might be a beacon, a display of his love to be seen by our neighbor.
The journey does not end when we come to faith. That is only the beginning
I don’t know where you are at in your walk with the Lord. I don’t know how God has been at work in shaping you. I don’t know what rot he is healing in you. I don’t know if you have responded to his call to faith. But I do know that God loves you. That he will never stop loving you. That as you go through the hard times, the difficult journey of sanctification that he is with you, that the one who loves you more than you can understand is the one who holds the knife. And I am convinced, for the Bible makes it clear, that he is the one who knows best. And one day, our time on the doorstep will be over, and we’ll be rejoicing in eternity with our Savior.
May God use our time on the doorstep to bring others unto himself.