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A Plate of Sweet and Succulent Figs

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Taste and See God’s Satisfaction After Leif and I moved to Salt Lake City from Colorado, I would often slip out on late-afternoon walks to explore our surrounding neighborhood where fruit trees dotted the streets. The sweet fragrance of their spring blossoms soon gave way to the ripening of apples and apricots, pears and plums. In nearby yards, grapes crawled along brick walls. I felt like I had arrived in a fruit lover’s paradise. I have always been a frugivore and can eat fruit for breakfast, lunch, dinner, and every snack between. So I started asking my new neighbors for permission to pick from their yards. “Gather as much as you want,” they said, delighted to share the fruit rather than watch it rot on the ground. My exercise and mealtimes soon merged as my walks evolved into a multicourse menu. I savored a soft nectarine followed by a juicy plum, then made a beeline two blocks over for a honey-sweet apple. Six blocks farther and I would pluck a handful of flavor-bursting cherries for dessert. Each time I brought home another basket of foraged fruit, Leif would give me a look that murmured, Here she goes again. What started out as delightful strolls turned into something more. When I mentioned my tasty capers to newfound friends, we formed a ragtag fruit-pickers club. Before I knew it, we were harvesting the neighborhood. I never imagined the bonding that could happen as we explored backyards and parks gleaning unpicked fruit. Budding relationships blossomed. Many of my friends’ children knew fruit only from the grocery produce section. Their eyes lit up when they realized they could pick fresh fruit and enjoy all the samples they wanted. The conversations felt natural as our hands stayed busy. Fresh juice dripped from our chins amid bursts of laughter. Our tummies and hearts filled, and our kitchens overflowed with tangy goodness. We experimented with recipes for apple pie, peach cobbler, and a magical pear tart. We picked and baked and taste-tested and recipe-shared our way through the summer. By early fall I had established real friendships around these experiences. Fruit had brought us together. As I set out to explore food in the Bible, I naturally took a fruit-forward approach and placed it toward the top of my list. I would never have predicted that the word fruit would appear almost two hundred times in Scripture (if you add fruitful, another three dozen mentions arise). The first hint of fruit in the Bible occurs, well, in the beginning. On the third day of creation, God handcrafts the trees to bear fruit according to their seed, and humanity has been enjoying the natural sugars ever since. The first humans commit the first sin by misusing — you guessed it — fruit. As the Bible’s narrative progresses, fruit continues appearing. God instructs the Israelites to give their “first fruits.” And the Promised Land sounds like a Zagat-rated, sugary buffet since five of the seven foods found there are technically fruits — figs, dates, pomegranates, grapes, and olives. (Sorry, wheat and barley.) Until I scouted for fruit in the Bible, I never realized how much meaning could be picked from its pages, some of which I had overlooked my entire life. When a particular variety thrives in a region, a nearby town or city was often named after it. Carmel, the site of the famed showdown between Elijah and the false prophets, means “vineyard,” and Anab, mentioned in Joshua, means “grape.” Suddenly I couldn’t help noticing the significance behind fruit everywhere I went. Dates are one of the primary ingredients in my favorite protein bar, but I can’t say I know how they grow. In the Bible, whenever palm trees appear, they’re referring to date palms. The “City of Palms,” later named Jericho, is an oasis surrounded by dates. When Jesus enters Jerusalem for Passover, people line the streets welcoming Him with boughs of date palms. The fruit of these trees symbolizes victory over death. Whether or not the people recognized the prophetic nature of their actions, we don’t know, but they set the stage for One who will soon conquer the grim reaper once and for all. As for pomegranates, the stately fruit has an actual crown, a symbol of royalty that sits atop. God instructs that images of pomegranates should be positioned on the pillars outside of the holy of holies and the hemlines of the high priests’ robes. Grapevines snake through the pages of Scripture, too. God tells the harvesters to leave enough grapes on the vine for the needy among the people; He compares Himself to a vintner who finds Israel as pleasing as “grapes in the desert.” Just when you think you have plenty of ingredients for a biblical fruit salad, apples show up, too. Solomon compares his lover’s breath to the fragrance of apples. And who knew that the phrase “the apple of my eye” comes from the Bible, which describes God’s delight and devotion to His people as well as our delight and devotion to God’s instruction. As I learned more about fruit in the Bible, it quickly became clear that I had to narrow my search. I decided to focus on one of the most prominent fruits of the Bible and one I wanted to know more about: figs. That’s when I noticed that after the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil and the Tree of Life, the Bible mentions a fruit tree. While Scripture never specifies the kind of illicit fruit consumed by Adam and Eve, some argue that it was the fig. With their lush, appetizing exterior, figs appear “more pleasant to the eyes” than apples, and we know the fig tree stood nearby since its leaves provided the first covering of sin and shame. This biblical fruit seemed ripe for the picking. Around the Table What if we learned to celebrate the fruit in each other’s lives? Living expectant that God is budding new life for one another? Noticing the fruit that’s ever maturing in each other? Seeing the good work that God is growing in us? Gather your family or a group of friends around the table. Take turns highlighting the fruit each person recognizes in each other’s life. Consider each fruit of the Spirit — love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control — and how that fruit is perhaps becoming evident as the person deepens their friendships, leads others well, embraces neighbors and strangers, or demonstrates a healthy work-life balance. Parents can think about the ways God is at work in their kids now and pray a blessing for a lifetime of fruitfulness over each child.