Remember back in the day when I first started hunting and pecking around on this blog and some of you couldn’t believe what you saw with some of your reading eyes? The glow of August sunshine warming your face as you followed the mystical and alluring ping of the “new post” notification, like a rat eager for the company of his whistling piper, then curled up by an open window with a hot cup of coffee and absorbed new and fantastical writings and thoughts not your own, and you responded (I still remember the words… so moving, so dear to me even now), pouring forth what had been bubbling up in your soul:
“ENOUGH WITH THE PEACHES ALREADY!!!”
But that was only because you and I didn’t have this sort of relationship back in rhubarb season last year. If we had, then when I achieved new heights of waxing poetic about peaches in the month of August, you would have smiled indulgently to yourself and commented something like, “Bless your heart,” entirely without angst or agitation, because your psyche would have already had 2 months in a sanitarium of your choosing to recover from the blown fuse it suffered during rhubarb season. Well, indulgent smiles plus that handy trick of snapping your wrist with a rubber band at regular intervals until your eye stops twitching.
Which is to say, rhubarb season is upon us!! It is very nearly almost entirely the most wonderful time of the year! Could there be a vegetable more rife with spiritual and dietary joy and application? It fascinates me on every level, and not only because I was once nicknamed Rhu-Barb. Entirely unrelated to my love of rhubarb, ironically. The accidental wit of college musicians and all that.
I was pleasantly reminded this weekend that I have genuinely funny kids. Not like I had forgotten, but it had been pushed to the back burner of my mind that there are mothers out there who have to practice laughing at jokes that aren’t funny and basically lying through their shiny white teeth at the their offspring who spend years telling jokes like, “Knock knock, who’s there, PEANUT BUTTER MAN!” and find it hilarious every single time. In retrospect (a place I have grown to despise, as it always seems to involve my having to stare at something insensitive I said or did that I have no way of fixing after the fact), I probably should have polite laughed and pretended I was also frequently assailed with the desire to throw rotten tomatoes at my children’s underdeveloped senses of humor, but instead, I made reference to the current long-standing joke that my Quail have running with the Beloved.
It is his own fault, really. You can’t come out every morning and joke about seeing some old man in the mirror and not have the kids leap on board the idea like Tom Hanks chasing a volleyball into the ocean. And leap they did, with a whole series of jokes and jabs relating to the bags under my husband’s eyes, jokes like, “Hey Dad, isn’t it great that you could fall off a boat into a lake and you wouldn’t drown, because your bags would keep you afloat?”
They have the good sense not to go after their mater’s bagging under eyes, though my youngest did (accidentally? Maybe, maybe not…) get in a pretty decent zinger when I thought I was observing her blue eyes beginning to make the gradual change to green.
“Why, child!” I exclaimed, “Are you getting eyes just like mine?”
Quail the Youngest glanced up, deadpan, and replied, “Blurry?”
Ahem. Let me teach you a great knock-knock joke I learned, kid…
Anyone who has trafficked in rhubarb knows that it requires sugar of some kind to be palatable. The tang and zip of the rhubarb flavor is a huge part of why it is the best vegetable known to man (are you seriously arguing with me? Why do you still do that after all this time?), but it is only appreciable when accompanied with sweetness (side note: totally just made rhubarb compote sweetened entirely with medjool dates and seasoned with cardamom. My Greek yogurt is doing a happy dance of anticipation… which, I admit, is weird and has me a little nervous about opening the fridge). Without sweetness, the tang leaves our mouths puckered, bitter, acrid.
Not unlike teaching the young humor, come to think.
And not unlike anything else in your life, either. You catch more flies with honey than with vinegar, all true and valid and has been embroidered on countless pillows through the ages. I’d say we pay plenty of attention these days to the idea of being the winsome, the sweet, the lightness and joy of Christ in our lives (and if you are not… well… knock it off and go smile at somebody). But I was struck while chopping up the rhubarb and thinking back on the mom conversation from the weekend that it goes both ways: sweetness without the tang isn’t satisfying. It is like a knock-knock joke missing the all important punchline.
The sweetness of Christ floods our senses when we are first given to know the desperate bitterness of our sin. Do we understand that the boundless mercies we are daily fed with came at tremendous cost? The Gospel is not a sickly sweet message of Precious Moments and self-esteem. It is a message of death being swallowed up by life — Christ death and resurrection leads to ours. Without the dying, there is no living. Without the cross, there is no glory. Without the tang, there is no sweet.
Tell the truth — to yourself, to your children, to the world. Kid, the joke needs a punchline. Woman, you need Jesus.