By your messengers
you have ridiculed the Lord.
And you have said,
‘With my many chariots
I have ascended the heights of the mountains,
the utmost heights of Lebanon.
I have cut down its tallest cedars,
the choicest of its junipers.
I have reached its remotest heights,
the finest of its forests.
- Isaiah 37:24
“‘This is what the Sovereign Lord says: On the day it was brought down to the realm of the dead I covered the deep springs with mourning for it; I held back its streams, and its abundant waters were restrained. Because of it I clothed Lebanon with gloom, and all the trees of the field withered away. I made the nations tremble at the sound of its fall when I brought it down to the realm of the dead to be with those who go down to the pit. Then all the trees of Eden, the choicest and best of Lebanon, the well-watered trees, were consoled in the earth below. They too, like the great cedar, had gone down to the realm of the dead, to those killed by the sword, along with the armed men who lived in its shade among the nations.
- Ezekiel 31:15-17
If you return to the Almighty, you will be restored:
If you remove wickedness far from your tent
and assign your nuggets to the dust,
your gold of Ophir to the rocks in the ravines,
then the Almighty will be your gold,
the choicest silver for you.
- Job 22:23-25
Each of the Scripture passages have the word “choicest” in them. But what if more than one person wants the “choicest?”
Once upon a long time ago, that is about 27 years ago, my wife, my sons, and I were cherry pickers. That is, we went to a farm about a mile from our home in the horse heaven hills of Washington state, near the Tri-Cities (Richland, Kennewick, and Pasco), and we picked Rainier cherries fresh from the trees. It was one of those “You Pick Them” places. You pay for the basket and then you keep what you place into it. And if you have ever had Rainier cherries fresh from the tree, you know the delight we were about to have.
Note: I have mentioned it before, but the horse heaven hills is appropriately named. The Pony Express riders rode their horses hard, and they had to be retired after their first journey across the western USA. When they retired, they led the horses to the high desert of Washington state and released them into the wild. On a nice sunny morning, I could look with my binoculars, toward Rattlesnake Mountain, west of our home, and occasionally spot a wild horse, one of the descendants of those Pony Express ponies.
But back to the cherry picking … At one point, standing on a ladder, I asked my wife in an accusatory tone, “Are you cherry picking?”
She replied, “Yes, and you would be doing better if you quit joking and picked more cherries!”
You see there is an expression of being a “cherry picker.” A cherry picker is the person that sees an assortment of something, and they pick the kind that they like, the “choicest” in their opinion, and everyone else gets what is left over. Not very kind, if you all like the same thing.
Our older son never developed a sweet tooth. When we got a bag of miniature candy bars during the holiday seasons, he would cherry pick the dark chocolate and we would thank him for cherry picking, because we liked everything else.
But my wife was, and still is, a little different.
Jerry Clower would always place a heart-warming or moral story in the middle or at the end of his comedy routines. We had one LP record of his where he talked about how during the Depression, his Mama would eat the back of the chicken and the neck (considering purchasing a whole bird), so that her growing boys could have the good parts. But when the Depression had ended, she continued to eat the back and the neck. She had developed a taste for them. The story was not funny, but there was a moral to be learned.
When we first heard Jerry Clower’s story, my wife looked at me and said, “Not a chance! I’ll eat the breast and the wing, and you boys can fight over who gets the drumsticks.” Of course, the boys got the drumsticks, and I was left with the thighs. And although her appetite these days is one wing, maybe two wings if she is hungry, she has stuck to that. Now before you think ill of her, we often bought meals with only the white meat, so everyone got a chicken breast.
If we got a large jar of mixed nuts, there might be 20% cashews and everyone in the family preferred the cashews. But it seemed within an hour of opening the jar, all the cashews were gone, all the way to the crumbs in the bottom of the jar. No one would admit that they had eaten any cashews but guess who had “cashew breath”!
The mixed nuts pictured above are the deluxe variety with over half the can full of cashews, but even then, there are no cashews left. Odd, my wife supposedly does not eat the nuts due to diverticulitis concerns. Hmmm. Curious. Okay, I cannot complain. While she should not eat any nuts, I am not supposed to eat cashews and pistachios. There were a few pistachios left, but my wife “sacrificed” by eating the cashews so that I would not be tempted. Okay, that is her cherry picking “story.”
I don’t know about you, but I would not have it any other way. My wife, in many other ways and too many to count, selflessly gives to the family. She did so much for the men in her life and when she can, she still does. The other day, she groaned as she stood at the stove. I tried to take over, but she said it had been a long time since she had cooked a simple meal. She finished quickly, and we ate the meal that she had prepared.
The thing is, she used to never complain about pain. She felt her pain was for her to endure, and why should we share in her endurance? She might not share the cashews, or the white chocolate truffles, or the chicken breasts, but she never let us know when she was in pain. She refused to share that too. Now, the pain is much worse, and she cannot withhold an occasional groan.
Could there be a different kind of cherry picking, where you endured someone’s pain so that they could just have one last day of no pain? When it is her time to go, it would be selfish to take an eternity of no pain away from her, even for a moment.
And we must also remember that Jesus Christ endured pain for us, and we are far from the “choicest” – that is until we are justified, adopted, and sanctified, and all of that as a gift, totally undeserved, from God.
Soli Deo Gloria. Only to God be the Glory.