You can’t just pop a pear tree in the front yard and call it good. True, the first day of Christmas your true love may surprise you with a partridge, and that partridge may very well prefer perching in your pear tree, but love and partridges do not produce pears. You may be wondering what could possibly be better than love and lavish gifts of pompous poultry. The answer may surprise you. Variety. Diversity. Difference. In the natural world these crucial elements are brought by cross pollination.
As I’m learning to appreciate the natural world and attempting to work alongside mother nature as a gardener, I am frequently reminded of the supernatural revelation God bestows to us in the natural world. (Yes, God is the creator and sustainer of the world and all that is in it. I delight in the flourishing, creative and beautiful aspects of God in his creation which beautifully reveal his feminine side. Remember, male AND female are made in his image, so I playfully call him mother nature while we garden together. I don’t think he minds, as he already refers to himself as a mother hen.) Pruning, weeding, watering, sowing and reaping- so many spiritual truths are constantly played out in nature, waiting for us to pay attention.
Many plants rely on cross pollination aka cross fertilization aka heterogamy. Sperm laden pollen grains flying in the wind (or catching rides on bees and insects) searching for egg-bearing flowers; a whole new word picture for spring fever. Pass the antihistamines, please! Plants in this category include blueberries, apples, plums, grapes and pomegranates. Some plants are considered to be “self-fertile” or “self- pollinating”, meaning their own pollen can fertilize their own fruit. Self-fertile plants include apricots, nectarines, tomatoes, peppers, peaches, apricots and many of the grains. (Important note to gardeners and hermits- self pollinating varieties are more productive if grown with other varieties and allowed to cross pollinate. )This is a simplistic division- there are apples and peaches and many others that have varieties in both categories.
Cross pollination ensures genetic variety, which is a strength that helps a species survive disease, drought, pests and facilitates desired attributes such as sweetness, stress tolerance, immunity, increased size and beauty. Now do you understand why variety is better than lovers with portentous partridges? Who doesn’t want to survive disease, drought, stress and pests while being sweet, long suffering and beautiful? (I know, I skipped one)
My heart has been heavy the last few years as I’ve seen a decline in all of the above, especially within the Christian community. I’ve witnessed a steep decreasing tolerance for different points of view, to the point of friendships and even family splintering. Were I to post some of my favorite readings from ancient fathers of the faith I’d be quickly labeled a heretic (anything dating pre reformation tends to be considered questionable and possibly straight from hell by my fellow protestant believers) and I’ll probably lose some readers before the end of this sentence because I’m going on record that I’m not a Trump supporter. I’m still an evangelical (to the traditional definition) and a conservative (again, to the traditional definition), but I’m finding there is little room in my lifelong communities for difference of thought. Unity is often misunderstood to be uniformity. We are calloused or just plain unaware of the incredible differences, especially political, amongst the disciples – a zealot and a tax collector living together in perfect peace! Amazing. (An interesting Harvard study on how we are becoming politically isolated)
I’m convinced that all humans are meant to be cross pollinated- that’s why God placed us in community, not living like Will Smith in “I am Legend.” We are born into families with multiple generations and alongside other children of different ages and genders (note that humans aren’t born in litters- God must have determined there is something beneficial to each of us being in different stages at the same time. On that note- as I’m designing a flower garden, I’m learning to incorporate different bloom times. Who wants a garden that only has color two months a year? Or apple trees that all ripen the same week?) Our communities are mixed with people of different abilities, ethnicities, personalities, religions, education, backgrounds, ect. We seem to be wired to huddle with those most like us, maybe because it is comfortable and easy- but growth and maturity rarely, if ever, occurs in comfort.
I grew up thinking different denominations had less of God (and it was dangerous to read any books not written by our approved writers), different parts of the country weren’t as evolved, different political parties were stupid and ungodly (as if one is lol) and different ethnicities and countries were a bit strange or primitive (all compared to mine, which was “normal”.) All of this was under the banner of being nondenominational, non-racist and non-partisan. I could have continued to live the rest of my life believing I was all this, but something happened. I started listening. I started reading. I started asking questions. I can’t imagine who I would be right now if I hadn’t opened my heart and mind to the different around me, the humans created in the image of God all around me. Many of my opinions have changed, and where they haven’t changed, I’m more understanding of different viewpoints (because I’m learning to listen, ask questions and engage as a fellow human being.) In short, I’m experiencing cross pollination and it has increased the fruit in my life! By fruit, I mean love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control (Galatians 5:22-23).
Moral of the story- don’t just plant one pear tree. Plant two. Then add a couple plums, three figs, half a dozen apples, a few cherries, a row of blueberries……..
Seriously now, not sure how to end this train of thought except with the faithful caboose of love. Because love is the first fruit and the foundation of our existence. We were created in love, for love. Without it, nothing else matters. We can have perfect theology (though no one on earth does) and perfect politics (again, no one does) and completely miss the mark without love. It’s love that makes the differences beneficial, our lives fruitful.
1 Corinthians 13, Passion translation
1 If I were to speak with eloquence in earth’s many languages, and in the heavenly tongues of angels, yet I didn’t express myself with love,[my words would be reduced to the hollow sound of nothing more than a clanging cymbal.
2 And if I were to have the gift of prophecy with a profound understanding of God’s hidden secrets, and if I possessed unending supernatural knowledge, and if I had the greatest gift of faith that could move mountains, but have never learned to love, then I am nothing.
3 And if I were to be so generous as to give away everything I owned to feed the poor, and to offer my body to be burned as a martyr, without the pure motive of love, I would gain nothing of value.
4 Love is large and incredibly patient. Love is gentle and consistently kind to all. It refuses to be jealous when blessing comes to someone else. Love does not brag about one’s achievements nor inflate its own importance. 5 Love does not traffic in shame and disrespect, nor selfishly seek its own honor. Love is not easily irritated or quick to take offense. 6 Love joyfully celebrates honesty and finds no delight in what is wrong. 7 Love is a safe place of shelter, for it never stops believing the best for others. Love never takes failure as defeat, for it never gives up.
8 Love never stops loving. It extends beyond the gift of prophecy, which eventually fades away. It is more enduring than tongues, which will one day fall silent. Love remains long after words of knowledge are forgotten. 9 Our present knowledge and our prophecies are but partial, 10 but when love’s perfection arrives, the partial will fade away. 11 When I was a child, I spoke about childish matters, for I saw things like a child and reasoned like a child. But the day came when I matured, and I set aside my childish ways.
12 For now we see but a faint reflection of riddles and mysteries as though reflected in a mirror, but one day we will see face-to-face. My understanding is incomplete now, but one day I will understand everything, just as everything about me has been fully understood. 13 Until then, there are three things that remain: faith, hope, and love—yet love surpasses them all. So above all else, let love be the beautiful prize for which you run.