Every year about this time I look for wild raspberries.
By the end of June, when walking the margin between field and forest, one can see clusters of berries-in-the-making, looking like leafy, miniature rosebuds. A few days later pale, pink berries emerge, each no bigger than the tip of a child’s little finger. This first berry is hard and sour, but with the passing of a week’s time it changes—first to a bright, red berry that looks like it should be good to eat but isn’t, then to a dull, purple fruit that refuses to let go of the stalk, and finally to a plump, black raspberry that will tumble into the palm of your hand with the slightest touch. Now is the time for all birds, children and other pilgrims to come to the feast.
Several years ago during my lunch hour, I picked two pints of raspberries, purchased a half-gallon of vanilla ice cream and treated my co-workers to an impromptu ice-cream social. The sweet-tartness of the raspberries and the creamy smoothness of the ice cream blended perfectly to bring delight to an otherwise ordinary afternoon.
As we savored our treat, I wondered: “Why should there be such a thing as a raspberry? And for that matter, why should there be so many of them? No one planted them; they grew up on their own. Why this sweet abundance?”
The scientist in me ventured an answer: The abundance of raspberries is a survival mechanism that has evolved in order to insure the propagation of raspberry DNA. The greater the number of raspberries, the greater the likelihood that not all of them will be eaten by greedy office workers, and that at least some will grow into new raspberry bushes, thereby insuring the survival of the species.
However, I found this explanation strangely unsatisfying, for it failed to account for the delight the raspberries brought to my coworkers and myself. Eating raspberries was more than a survival mechanism; it was a joy and a blessing.
There is something good about a world that can serve up an abundance of raspberries on a hot summer afternoon. When wild raspberries are eaten, God nourishes not only our bodies, but also our souls. The raspberries point beyond themselves to a generous and creative God who looks on creation and says, “Behold, it is very good (Genesis 1:31).” The raspberries are not an accident of nature but a benediction from the gracious hand of God to be received with joy and gratitude. Raspberries remind us that there is more to life than survival of the fittest. Life is not a contest to be survived but a joy to be celebrated.