Lessons From Prunes…

Yesterday evening, I received an unexpected life lesson from a bag of prunes. While drying dishes, I began to mindlessly eat from my wife’s bag of prunes. You see, my wife eats prunes from time to time, and I honestly thought she ate them for pleasure. Looking back, communication is key. I should have asked my wife over our 12 years of marriage why she buys and eats prunes, but, alas, that conversation piece never came up in our marriage. Anyways, never having tried a prune before, and feeling mighty adventurous, I decided to try one yesterday. They’re tasty! They really are. It’s like a small goblet of light sweetness! So, I had another, and another, and another, and another…You get the idea. I had a whole mess load of prunes. Come to find out, my wife does indeed eat these little tasty fruits, but not for pleasure’s sake. She has a definite end state in mind when she carefully selects a few to eat.

Now, I know what you might be thinking…”You’re 36 years old and you are just now realizing the dangerous effects of overeating prunes?” Yes, my dear reader, you are correct. I, David Paul Cotner III, was 36 years old when I discovered that only morons eat half a bag of prunes while drying dishes. But in my defense, I never had “the talk” about prunes. No one ever sat me down and said, “David, there are many fruits in this world. Most of them are mighty delicious, but be warned (dun, dun, duuun) about the prune…” Never got that talk. Apparently, all my friends have received that talk, but not me. I’m not looking for your sympathy here, just your understanding. Also, as a sidenote, a warning label should really be attached to every bag of prunes…Something to the effect of: “Eat responsibly. Overeating prunes could result in…”

So, I ate far too many prunes last night and paid a hefty price. It was by no means a medical emergency or anything, but I spent some quality time in my home’s bathroom last night. In the end, I got all cleared out AND I learned some valuable lessons from that deceitful bag of prunes…Sidenote: The “fruit of the Spirit” should never be depicted as a prune as I’m fairly certain that the fruit from the “tree of the knowledge of good and evil” was a prune…Anyways, let me share some of my insights with you…

  1. Knowledge is key. A prune is a fruit that is eaten purposefully and strategically. I know this now, but I did not know it then (i.e., last night). Knowledge is key. Indeed, knowledge is key to all of life. Knowing who, what, where, when, why, and how is crucial as you walk through life. Therefore, ask good questions, read good books, and always pursue the knowledge of God. Yes, knowing who God is and what He expects from you will save you from a thousand sorrows and prevent you from wasting valuable time in this life.
  2. Moderation is wise. Prunes aren’t bad because I overate them. No, prunes are good and should be treated with respect. That is to say, prunes are a good fruit that should be eaten in moderation. The same is true with so many other areas of life. They say, “Everything in moderation.” I say, “Everything good in moderation.” No need to pig out on your prunes. Savor one or two and move on.
  3. Experience is good. I have learned a valuable lesson. To be sure, I’ve learned a valuable lesson the hard way, but I’ve still learned a valuable lesson. Experience is such a great teacher. It tells you what to do again. And perhaps more importantly, what not to do again. Yes, experience is a wise teacher that should be listened to and remembered. Indeed, we all make mistakes. But we don’t all learn from our mistakes. Let’s learn from our mistakes and turn mistakes into experiences that drive us further down the pathway of wisdom.

So, there you have it. Some life lessons from a bag of prunes. I’m grateful for some lessons learned. Also, my wife got a good laugh last night; and it’s nice to hear her laugh, even if it’s at my expense.

“God’s Mercy In Messed Up Families” by Jon Bloom

Have you ever noticed how hard it is to find an example of what we would call a “healthy family” in the Bible? It’s a lot easier to find families with a lot of sin and a lot of pain than to find families with a lot of harmony. For example, here’s just a sampling from Genesis:

  • The first recorded husband and wife calamitously disobey God (Genesis 3).
  • Their firstborn commits fratricide (Genesis 4).
  • Sarah’s grief over infertility moves her to give her servant, Hagar, to Abraham as a concubine to bear a surrogate child (Genesis 16). When it happens, Sarah abuses Hagar in jealous anger. Abraham is passive in the whole affair.
  • Lot, reluctant to leave sexually perverse Sodom, his home, has to be dragged out by angels and then weeks later his daughters seduce him into drunken incest (Genesis 19).
  • Isaac and Rebecca play favorites with their twin boys, whose sibling rivalry becomes one of the worst in history (Genesis 25).
  • Esau has no discernment. He sells his birthright for soup (Genesis 25), grieves his parents by marrying Canaanite women (Genesis 26), and nurses a 20-year murderous grudge against his conniving younger brother.
  • Jacob (said conniver) manipulates and deceives his brother out of his birthright (Genesis 25) and blessing (Genesis 27).
  • Uncle Laban deceives nephew Jacob by somehow smuggling Leah in as Jacob’s bride instead of Rachel (Genesis 29). This results in Jacob marrying sisters — a horrible situation (see Leviticus 18:18). This births another nasty sibling rivalry where the sisters’ competition for children (including giving their servants to Jacob as concubines) produce the twelve patriarchs of Israel (Genesis 30).
  • Jacob’s daughter, Dinah, is raped by the pagan, Shechem, who then wants to marry her. Simeon and Levi respond by massacring all the men of Shechem’s town (Genesis 34).
  • Jacob’s oldest son, Reuben, can’t resist his incestuous desires and sleeps with one of his father’s concubines, the mother of some of his brothers (Genesis 35).
  • Ten of Jacob’s sons contemplate fratricide, but sell brother Joseph into slavery instead. Then they lie about it to their father for 22 years until Joseph exposes them (Genesis 37, 45).
  • Judah, as a widower, frequented prostitutes. This occurred frequently enough that his daughter-in-law, Tamar, whom he had dishonored, knew that if she disguised herself as one, he’d sleep with her. He did and got her pregnant (Genesis 38).

That’s just the beginning. Time would fail me to talk of:

  • Aaron’s sons, Nadab and Abihu (Leviticus 10),
  • Gideon’s murderous son, Abimelech (Judges 9),
  • Samson’s un-Nazirite immorality (Judges 14–16),
  • Eli’s worthless sons (1 Samuel –2-4),
  • Samuel’s worthless sons (1 Samuel 8),
  • David’s sordid family (2 Samuel 11–18),
  • Wise Solomon who unwisely married 1,000 women, turned from God, and whose proverbial instruction went essentially unheeded by most of his heirs (1 Kings 11–12),
  • Etc., etc.

Why is the Bible loud on sinfully dysfunctional families and quiet on harmonious families?

Well, for one thing, most families aren’t harmonious. Humanity is not harmonious. We are alienated — alienated from God and each other. So put alienated, selfish sinners together in a home, sharing possessions and the most intimate aspects of life, having different personalities and interests, and a disparate distribution of power, abilities, and opportunities, and you have a recipe for a sin-mess.

But there’s a deeper purpose at work in this mess. The Bible’s main theme is God’s gracious plan to redeem needy sinners. It teaches us that what God wants most for us is that we 1) become aware of our sinfulness and 2) our powerlessness to save ourselves, as we 3) believe and love his Son and the gospel he preached, and 4) graciously love one another. And it turns out that the family is an ideal place for all of these to occur.

But what we often fail to remember is that the mess is usually required for these things to occur. Sin must be seen and powerlessness must be experienced before we really turn to Jesus and embrace his gospel. And offenses must be committed if gracious love is to be demonstrated. So if we’re praying for our family members to experience these things, we should expect trouble.

Family harmony is a good desire and something to work toward. But in God’s plan, it may not be what is most needed. What may be most needed is for our family to be a crucible of grace, a place where the heat of pressure forces sin to surface providing opportunities for the gospel to be understood and applied. And when this happens the messes become mercies.

My point is this: if your family is not the epitome of harmony, take heart. God specializes in redeeming messes. See yours as an opportunity for God’s grace to become visible to your loved ones and pray hard that God will make it happen.

Video: “The Last Will Be First”

In our journey through Genesis, we have discovered a mini theme, namely, sibling rivalry. From Cain & Abel to Isaac & Ishmael to Jacob & Esau, siblings at war with each other is a constant theme. Indeed, as we continue to journey through this incredible book, we will discover that this pattern of sibling rivalry continues with Leah & Rachel and, eventually, Joseph & his brothers. Certainly, this sibling rivalry highlights the continuing consequences of sin, but is there a deeper lesson to gain from all these siblings at odds with each other? Yes, in almost every instance of sibling rivalry in the book of Genesis, the younger is favored over the older. The first becomes last and the last becomes first. The video below explains further…