“Look underneath the leaves,” I tell my daughter this as we’re elbow deep in berry brambles. Thorns tear at our hands and forearms as we straddle the vines and a skunk hole just beneath our feet. We wouldn’t normally be here on this corner of the woods, but today I have a white bowl tucked under my arm and we’re hunting for black raspberries. This little cove of thorns and vines boasted a crown of berries catching the afternoon sun so here we are.
“I think I’ve got them all,” she says. Her fingertips are purple and a handful of berries piles into my bowl.
“Did you look underneath?” I ask again. “That’s where the best ones are hiding. Just underneath the surface.”
She lifts a leaf with her fingertips, trying to avoid the branches that are sure to draw blood. “Whoa,” she remarks. “Ok, yeah, there’s more.” There under the sharp edges and the now barren surface is a world of fruit. Shaded, healthier, less likely to be picked off by birds. A robust harvest of black raspberries spills into the bowl, piling it up to the surface.
“I think we need another bowl,” she laughs.
I never intend for all of my interactions with the teeming nature just outside our back door to be moments of lessons. I can’t help but see Romans 1 in action everywhere I turn. While all of our culture seems to be living out Romans 1:21-23, I’m going to keep returning to Romans 1:19-20 —
“For what can be known about God is plain to them, because God has shown it to them. For his invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made.”
There is no error in creation. No analogy that isn’t there with intention. No picture of God that is there by coincidence or “Isn’t that interesting?” moments. It’s all intentional. And for those of us who see it, it becomes clear. God’s creation shouts of his character, his attributes, who he is.
I see again it today as we fill a ceramic bowl with fresh wild raspberries and my daughter asks to learn how to find a berry patch.
I’m thinking of every moment I’ve felt invisible. Every moment I’ve felt hidden while the ones who manage to make their way to the surface get picked and I feel stuck under a mammoth leaf. I think of every faithful pastor, mother, friend, worker, bible study leader, group leader, elderly woman, single dad, reserved child. I think of every time I’ve tried to get attention for the good in my life and it seems God is more interested at doing work at something below the surface where no one else can see.
I think about the fruit that grows healthy, sweeter, and vibrant just underneath the surface. The stuff that no one else can see. The stuff that seems non-existent until someone lifts the edge of a leaf and a world of fruitfulness is revealed.
Fruitfulness in the homes that aren’t making it to influencer-level status on instagram. Fruitfulness in the marriages that are faithfully working it out every day. Fruitfulness in the mother who needs the grace of God to sustain her on another long summer day. Fruitfulness in the bible study leader who won’t ever make it to a main stage but who knows what it looks like to disciple someone.
This is all I’m thinking of as our bowl fills.
Fruitfulness in the single parent who pours into their children at bedtime, with no one else to take note. Fruitfulness in the person who seems ordinary, not shiny, not that impressive. Maybe just someone you’d normally pass by assuming they don’t have much to offer.
Fruitfulness in all of the shaded corners, surrounded by skunk holes, fallen branches. There things root deep into the earth and find their growth.
Just underneath. Just hidden. Fully healthy. Content to grow without the fanfare of being seen. Content to grow to full health, protected, covered.
And it may seem obvious. It may seem like another analogy packed into nature, ready for anyone who wants to see it.
(Which it is. That’s the point.)
But today, if you feel hidden, invisible, unseen, trust that the One who makes you fruitful has not forgotten the place where He’s planted you to grow. Those massive leaves aren’t shadows. They’re protection. Grow healthy there. Be fruitful. Just underneath.