I had an uncle in my earlier years who was a top class gardener. Every year his vegetable patch was immaculate and its produce of award winning quality. No visitor or friend ever left his home without something that had been grown in his garden. Not only so but he travelled to other places to share the bounty of his crop. His habit of sharing his vegetables with others was so entrenched that even when he was too old to work in his garden he always had a stock of shop bought vegetables in his shed – and again no visitor ever left empty handed.
I well recall visiting him one afternoon when he was no longer fit enough to garden and was at the point of having lost the sense of what was a good vegetable and what was not. As usual he called my father round to the shed and gave him a turnip to take home. The turnip was wisened and soft – not suitable for human consumption and had later to be consigned to the bin. Of course he was thanked for his kindness – and no one would have dreamed of telling him that the vegetable he’d so kindly given was not fit for consumption (Maybe that’s a Scottish thing!).
I hope this story may save you from some misunderstanding and perhaps confusion or even pain. What do I mean?
I have become aware in recent days that this story and its warning is not restricted to old turnips – because it has a parallel in life and the christian life in particular. And it has not always got to do with old age either.
The danger is that when a good gardener, a close friend, a talented leader someone you look up to and have learned a lot from, perhaps even a gifted preacher or prophet starts to serve up shop bought turnips instead of garden fresh turnips it’s hard to tell the difference. Then, one day, when they hand you a wisened turnip you immediately check your glasses to see of your vision is deceiving you – and even then think that somehow you must have it wrong. This has happened to me a number of times recently. And it’s not till I walk again in the garden and check out what a fresh garden grown turnip looks like that I realise something really had gone far wrong. I am not condemning here in any way – in fact I am sad to the point of weeping – because the giver has come to a place in life where they don’t know the difference between a fresh turnip and a rotten one unfit for spiritual consumption.
I share this today for only one reason – that you might be alive to the possibility that yesterday’s giver of good things might today have lost their way to the point that they are feeding dangerous food to the unwary and hungry soul. And with the prayer that I myself might have the grace and insight to know if I am offering an old turnip in place of a garden fresh one. Come to think of it perhaps we could all do with praying the same.