Ode to a Watermelon…

I’m glad I have a brother who fancies himself a watermelon farmer. Actually, he just fancies himself a farmer, but watermelons we’re his abundant crop this summer. I’m glad because I love watermelon. I love it’s juicy sweetness. I love the sound a watermelon makes when you stick the knife in it and it’s ripeness is just such that it splits itself open. That’s when you know it’s going to be sweet and delicious. My brother had a pretty good crop this year, and I was the benefactor of several of those home-grown melons.

jubilee melonsMy love for watermelons is as much nostalgia as anything else, I suppose. I remember as a kid walking into Malone’s Grocery in Chatham, LA, in the summer time and seeing the front of the store lined with fresh Saline watermelons. Usually in July, the watermelon farmers from Bienville Parish would make their rounds pulling trailers loaded with watermelons, stopping at every little grocery store, convenience store and gas station along their routes. If we were anywhere around, we were usually the ones who helped pack the melons from the trailer into the store. I still can’t decide which I liked more–the striped “Jubilee” melon, or the solid “Charleston Gray.”

My grandfather’s store had a dairy case that ran the length of one wall just as you entered the store. Underneath the “cooler” was storage for extra milk or eggs. He’d have us clean out a spot and fill the “cooler” with watermelons, and a sign would go in the window reading “Cold Watermelon.” The best part (and here’s the love) was on Sunday after lunch, my grandfather would go to the store, pull out one of those ice cold watermelons and bring it home for everyone to enjoy on a hot summer afternoon. Once I was old enough to drive, he’d trust me with the keys to the store, and I would get to go pick out one of those ice cold melons. Every time I slice into a juicy, ripe melon, I remember those days growing up. Nothing sweeter on a hot summer afternoon than ice cold watermelon.

It’s really just the summer melons that evoke those memories. I’ve yet to find any of those “seedless” watermelons you buy these days that have the same sweetness or meaty-ness of those locally, home-grown melons. They are a cheap (well, not really cheap, but you know what I mean) imitation of the real thing, and while they’ll do in a pinch, they just never taste quite right (and, don’t even get me started on that stuff they call “watermelon” on buffets and salad bars–really?).

Seeds are part of the whole watermelon experience. There really is something missing when the seeds are not there (seriously, no pun intended). Seeds make us have to work for the melon. I mean, when was the last time you had a seed-spitting contest? People say the sweetest part of the melon is the “heart” where there are few seeds, but I disagree. I find the sweetest part of the melon to be right in the middle of all the seeds, and while it’s a chore and a bother to separate the melon from the seeds, it’s always worth the effort, and, if you save the seeds, you’ve got the beginnings of next year’s crop. But, seedless melons are all the rage. They’re what you find in the stores these days. They make watermelon eating easier, and after all, everyone wants easier.

Sometimes, I think we want our faith easier, too. We don’t want to be bothered with the hard work that is real faith. Give me a seedless faith, one where I don’t have to bothered with the demands of a holy God, one where I can taste of the sweetness without dealing with accountability, or transparency, or honesty. Give me a seedless faith where I don’t have to wrestle with the hard questions of life. Questions like, “Why do bad things happen to good people?” or “Where is God when it hurts?” No, my seedless faith says everything is supposed to come up roses, that life is supposed to be easy, that I’m supposed to have all the finer things of life because, hey, I deserve it. Give me a seedless faith, where sin is some nebulous reality we know exists, but no one (especially me!) actually ever does it anymore. Give me a seedless faith, one without judgment, one without trials and struggles, one where all things are perfect. Some faith that is!

Faith is made stronger in the fire. Faith is made stronger in the trials. Faith is made deeper when practiced in a community where accountability is real, where honesty and integrity matter. Faith is made stronger when we wrestle with sin (both our own and that of society). Faith is made stronger, and more meaningful, and life-changing when we have to deal with the seeds.

There are Christians around the world today whose faith is being made stronger because of the persecution they endure. The Kurdish Christians who are being driven from their homes, whose lives are being threatened if they do not convert to Islam, who are being killed for the belief in Jesus Christ, do not possess a seedless faith. I suspect the persecution comes for them because they have a deep faith, a faith that is being deepened even in the face of mounting persecution. I pray for them (and all our brothers and sisters around the world who are being persecuted) daily. I pray their faith doesn’t falter, but I also pray that I could have such faith.

Nah! Seedless watermelons just aren’t the same. Faith not borne out of the trials and struggles of life is not quite the same either. I’ll take my watermelon with seeds in it. I pray my faith deepens in the hard work of living life.

Until next time, keep looking up…

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