A week ago, my parents' neighbor brought a big bag of tangerines to their house. I love-love-love tangerines, so I was thrilled to be visiting my folks on the day their neighbor gave them the fruit. Salivating, I only half-listened as the neighbor explained, "These tangerines aren't pretty, but they are super flavorful and they don't have any seeds." He'd picked them from a tree at his relative's home in San Diego.
Later that afternoon, I plucked a tangerine out of the plastic grocery bag. True to what he'd apologetically stated, the tangerines weren't pretty. In fact, they were downright ugly. They were tiny and shriveled. The rough, pock-marked peel hung loosely around the fruit inside. Ugh, I thought, if I'd seen these at a grocery store, I would have turned my nose up at them as if they were rotten!
But hey, these were tangerines (did I mention I love-love-love them?). And they were free. So I peeled back the loose skin, fully expecting maggots or worms to come crawling out. The fruit inside was small, but certainly not rancid or bug-ridden. Part of my brain even told me, "Wow, the skin peels away so easily, and the fruit inside doesn't squirt or bruise when I peel it." As I bit into that first section of tangerine, the tangy flavor and aroma hit me all at once. Truly, it was the best tangerine I'd ever tasted. And, true to the neighbor's word, it had no seeds!
Every tangerine in the bag was equally wonderful. I ran out of the fruit yesterday, so I went to Marina Farms, a little gourmet market that's touted as the having best produce in the Los Angeles area. Indeed, their fruits and veggies are quite good, so I figured I'd be able to find a comparable tangerine.
I spotted some tangerines that were so perfect, they looked plastic. The sign that hung above the fruit proclaimed, "Sweet tangerines from Spain!" I immediately knew I was going to be disappointed. And I was. The pristine skin was hard to peel. The perfectly formed fruit inside was firm, not soft and succulent like the San Diego tangerines. And while they tasted OK, the flavor was ho-hum in comparison.
After eating the Spanish tangerine, I felt unsatisfied. I longed for a bite of the ugly fruit. And I began to think of how I approach life with a limited perception. (Yes, I really do think about these weird correlations!) There are certain things I perceive as beautiful: having a fancy car, wearing spectacular clothes, working in a high-power job making tons of money. But I started to compare what I do have--the stuff God's actually given me--and I was surprised to find simplicity and humility are my biggest blessings. For example:
1) I drive a 9-year-old Ford Contour. It has a big dent in the door from where someone backed into it, and in the sunlight, you can see the number "911" scratched on the hood where someone vandalized it. Amazingly, my car gives me such peace. I never worry about getting a dent or having it stolen. Conversely, whenever I drive my husband's new luxury car--or even a nice rental vehicle--I'm stressed out to no end. I worry about dirtying or denting the nice car, or having it stolen. (Check out what Matthew 6:19-21 has to say about this.)
2) I don't have a lot of clothes, which works great for me. I can always find what I'm looking for in my closet, and I never have more than a few loads of laundry to wash. I give away stuff that doesn't fit me. I don't feel burdened to shop for clothes regularly, and I'm thrilled to buy a new item when an old one wears out. God seems to take care of that: I knew the days of my favorite pair of jeans were numbered, so I've been looking for new jeans for years. I've never found any until recently. A few days after I bought that wonderful new pair of jeans, the old ones ripped beyond repair. Thanks for the new jeans, God! (Matthew 6:28-34)
3) I've never had a high-paying, executive job. But I've always been blessed with work that's a total blast. Much of the work I currently do is unpaid. Admittedly, I'd like to be able to tell people I make six-figures and I'm a CEO or president or something. Yet I know God has blessed me with little stress and lots of support and positive feedback. I love doing the work he's given me. As a side note, God just gave me the perfect job for me! Beginning in June, I'll be regularly blogging for Today's Christian Woman magazine's online site. And you all know how much I love to blog--how awesome and perfect is that! (Colossians 3:23-24)
From the outside, our lives can seem like that San Diego tangerine: small, shriveled, insignificant, even ugly. I'm learning to look beyond the ideas in my head of what a "good" life is, and to expect great things from God even when I don't yet see the greatness. I can't wait to chow down on all the delicious treats God has in store for me.
1) What good things have you received from God that didn't look so good at first glance?
2) Consider the things you don't have. How is your seeming "lack" actually a blessing in disguise?