The end of August is right around the time my garden moves from producing enough for summer meals and snacks to yielding so much that I have to start canning and freezing. By the time September arrives, I’m usually up to my ears in tomatoes, and I spend many days peeling and dicing tomatoes so that we’ll have homegrown tomatoes for soups throughout the winter. The juice of the freshly-peeled tomatoes rolls down my arms and off the counter top. The bags of diced tomatoes fill my deep freeze. And my body is weary from working sun up to sun down.
Sometimes – on days that aren’t my best – I’m frustrated that I come straight home from my work at church and then have hours yet to spend in the garden and in the kitchen.
Yet, I know that come January, I will wish there were still more homegrown tomatoes in my freezer. As Joni Mitchell famously sang, “Don’t it always seem to go that you don’t know what you’ve got ’til it’s gone?”
In September, the garden can be a frustration. Come January, each thing lovingly put up, canned, and frozen is a blessing that reminds me of warmer days, a foretaste of the blessings that are yet to come.
Psalm 133 says,
“How very good and pleasant it is
when kindred live together in unity!
It is like the precious oil on the head,
running down upon the beard,
on the beard of Aaron,
running down over the collar of his robes.”
Unity is very good, indeed, precious like the tomato juice running down my arms and off the counter top in September. Unity is a lot of work. It’s a blessing, but sometimes it doesn’t feel like it. We may not even realize what a good thing we had going until it’s gone. And, then we spend those chilly, lonely winter days longing for what we used to have.
Unity is sometimes like that abundant crop of tomatoes. Other times it’s being forced to overcome anger, resentment, and hurt when there is opportunity for reconciliation.
When Joseph’s brothers stood before him after all those years, and after their dastardly deed of selling him into slavery, I very much doubt that Joseph felt like singing the words of Psalm 133. It’s hard to celebrate unity when there’s so much hurt and anger standing in the way, and if anyone had a right to hang on to his anger, it was Joseph. But, when he let go of it, his tears flowed down. “How very good and pleasant it is when kindred live together in unity! It is like the precious oil on the head, running down upon the beard, on the beard of Aaron, running down over the collar of his robes.”
The trouble with blessings like unity is that we often miss out of the blessing while it is right in front of us. We miss out on it because the blessing of unity is just too much work. We miss out on it because the blessing of unity is ugly sometimes. We miss out on the blessing of unity because unity is painful sometimes. It requires us to step over our hurts, our disagreements, our resentment, wipe the tears away and embrace each other. We have to roll up our sleeves, step into the heat, and do the work together.
Celebrating the blessing of unity means seeing the joy in the work of living together. Celebrating the blessing of unity means embracing the wounded parts of ourselves, and letting the tears flow.
In the moment, we may not see the blessing for what it is. But, it’s there. And, it’s good for us to