I read a short quote from our SacredSpace morning devotion a couple of weeks ago that hasn’t left me. I share it with you here:
In an essay about the crushing loss of a friendship novelist Jacqueline Mitchard crafted a brilliant phrase. To describe how she had neglected other relationships during the ill-fated friendship, Mitchard wrote that she had given the ‘very best strawberries’ of her personal life only to that one particular friend.
I was skimming a magazine in the waiting room of my kids orthodontist when I first read those words: The very best strawberries. The phrase ran through me like a chill. I didn’t want to forget it. It made me consider my own relationships. Was I hanging onto any friendship that was lopsided or unhealthy, as Mitchard later discovered that one to be? Were there any friends I was taking for granted? What were my best strawberries anyway? Listening well? Surprising a friend with a meal? Sending an encouraging note? The gift of my time?
After reading the essay, I resolved to make sure to nurture my healthy friendships.
Jennifer Grant – Wholehearted living.
We have all been made in God’s image with our own unique personality and gifting and have all been given the same amount of time to use – just 24 hours in every day. So how do we use that time, the gifts we have been given and our energy or capacity as a person? We only have a limited amount of strawberries and once they have gone, they’ve gone. We can’t take them back.
The devotional mentioned that she had spent her strawberries on an ill fated relationship. Well, in contrast, my wife and I we were involved in a very fruitful ministry. As many of you know, in our retreat centre, we received 250 leaders each year attending courses and retreats for at least a week. They came from over 40 nations each year. The work was very fulfilling, but we were getting worn out with all the practical side of making beds, cleaning, sorting, washing, cooking, organising and doing administration. We began to feel God’s grace lifting from us to keep running our ministry and started to talk and process. This was particularly difficult for me, as I saw this ministry as a calling that could go on for many years to come. But I was aware that something was wrong. As we processed with others, we recognised that God had some new priorities for us. I was spending all my best strawberries on the retreat centre and it was time to evaluate.
So, you can spend your strawberries on the good and not so good and both can be wrong! The bottom line is, what are God’s priorities for me to be spending my strawberries?
How did Jesus spend his
strawberries? Every day Jesus lived out some
clear purposes or priorities.
1. He had a message to give and daily he met people to whom he gave his gifts, his time and energy. People like John the Baptist, Nicodemus, the woman at the well, Lazarus, Martha and Mary, the rich young ruler, Zacchaeus, and a host of other individuals.
2. He had a group of disciples to train in preaching, healing, casting out demons and grounding them in the values and ways of the kingdom of God.
3. He was the model for us in living a holy life and gave us an example to follow. As our messiah, he moved in the power and presence of the spirit and was willing to die on a cross and open up the way for us to know and love him.
Imagine you have a handful of strawberries at the beginning of every new day. Who are you going to give them to? What will you do for those people? What is the best gift you can give?
In a couples retreat that we led in February, I was giving an example of making time for your marriage in the midst of the pressing needs of so many other things trying to grasp your time. I used the picture of packing a car with luggage. First you put in the large items and then add in all the small items around them. If you don’t do this the large items never fit in. So, it is with spending time in those important relationships. Your best strawberries need to be spent first!
Solitude – Time with the Lord: Luke 4:42. ‘At daybreak the next morning, the crowds came and searched everywhere for him, but Jesus had already left to go to a secluded place. When they finally found him, they held him tightly, begging him to stay with them in Capernaum.’
It’s a given really that we need to spend time with God but when and for how long and doing what? It will vary for everyone. For many years now, Rite and I have started the day with a coffee and devotional time. This last year we have used the SacredSpace devotional of the Jesuits that I make mention of above. It is a form of lectio divina, an interactive meditation on a gospel passage that encourages a response to the Lord. We also have our own individual times of thanksgiving, worship, intercession, praying over our day and any issues that need discernment. There are many spiritual disciplines that we can utilise and often we have seasons where we engage in different disciplines as is fitting for our situation. The evening is a good time to do an examen where we look back on the day and see where we have connected with the Lord and where we have missed him. We want to give our best strawberry to the Lord and set a stage for the day hearing from him and giving him our attention and obedience for what he is calling us to.
Time with our loved ones: If you are married, then a strawberry is well spent being given to them – turning a listening ear, doing a kind act, sharing a positive word, showing affectionate care and being a supportive spouse. If you have a family, then it’s thinking of your children or siblings, grand parents, aunts and uncles – anyone that is close and you want to connect to. If you are not married perhaps it’s your best friend that you want to do something special for.
The challenge is that many of these relationships can often be taken for granted and we don’t give that special attention or have what I call ‘conversations on purpose.’
We were visiting some of our family recently and it was a joy to see them and the grandkids and be able to support them in various ways. However, as we reflected back on our time, we realised how busy we had been, getting over jet lag, looking after grandkids, shopping and cooking, preparing for some ministry events and at the end of the day, missed giving strawberries to the very people we had gone to spend time with! We discovered that perhaps one of the most important questions we can ask as we give a strawberry is, ‘How was your day?’ It shows concern. It helps us evaluate what has happened. It connects us emotionally. It requires a personal response.
Time with God’s assignment today: Like Jesus, we all have daily assignments from God, it’s just that sometimes we don’t discover them until it’s too late. We may know our overall calling – for me it’s developing leaders around the world to live, love and lead like Jesus. But how am I spending my strawberries daily in assignments? Praying for people, touching lives with acts of kindness, using my organisational mind or strategic thinking or bringing structure to something. We all have gifts to be used but it becomes so easy to fritter that time away and not give our best strawberries to God’s to do list for me.
How are we spending our strawberries? We have a limited supply. Do we waste them on relationships that don’t give life, or activities that don’t inspire us? Do we end up with strawberries still in our hands at the end of the day, not having really given ourselves deeply to anyone or anything? Or do we give them away to the first people that come along and are left with nothing for those we really care about?
Let’s ask for the fear of God over our lives so we know how to spend our handful of strawberries well every day.
Until next month