My brother and I loved playing in the backyard of our childhood home, back in the days when kids enjoyed the outdoors. Probably the single most irksome thing about our wonderland was Mrs. Modell’s black walnut tree hanging overhead. The tree was huge and jutted across a third of our yard. It wasn’t so much the tree we hated, but those troublesome walnuts.
Throughout spring and summer the tree grows its fruit, or the nut and seed. The nut at this stage is encased in a lime green husk that’s hard as a baseball. They gradually grow larger and resemble clusters of lemons or green apples. When they fell early (or we knocked them from the tree), we learned to let them alone because they left a foul scent on our hands.
In autumn the husk softens as it ripens and then falls to the ground. This is when the backyard became a little less enjoyable for us, for a number of reasons. The old car that sat under the tree made sure we always knew when the husks fell…every single time. Then, they rot and change from greenish-yellow in color to dark brown or black; and the liquefied mush stains anything it touches. Inside that mess is a tough, corrugated nut that looks like a round sea coral.
My brother and I usually didn’t take the time to clear away the husks before mowing the yard, so whole or sharp pieces of nut were always a threat to our bare feet as we ran about. It was only when we became teens that we began to harvest the nuts for our mom and her friends. Drying out and removing the rotted husks required patience unless we were prepared to dive in and get dirty.
O, Taste and See!
That memory causes me to reflect on Philippians 3:14: “I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus”—not in the sense of any effort I put into harvesting those nuts. Instead, I notice the parallel of the subject: the goal…here the nut and fruit of the tree.
My brother and I learned that there was a useful and tasty goodness within those husks that made all that seasonal drama worthwhile, albeit in our yard and not on a farm. It was why the squirrels waited patiently as the seed ripened.
Similarly, living our lives with Christ in mind is like putting up with the annoying and unpleasant aspects of those husks knowing that something wonderful abides. Jesus compares the kingdom to a man who discovers treasure in a field, hides it again, and then quickly buys the field (Matt. 13:44). That field may have been the most miserable boondocks to him until then; but finding that treasure changed everything.
The anthem “Shout to the Lord” ends with a great affirmation: “Nothing compares to the promise I have in you.” Do you believe that? That’s where I stand. Christ is all the world to me—even if it means muck, stinky hands, and the constant thud of husks hitting the ground.