THE PLUM ORCHARD
The afternoon began like any other. Friends playing with sticks walking down the sandy road that followed the lakeshore. Chasing butterflies, picking blackberries along the fence line, and spinning memes that no one believed were true. And then we passed the whitewashed house that looked its age and then some. On the side of the house was the plum orchard. Trees laden with plump red fruit, ripened by the Florida sunshine and swollen from the afternoon rains on a lazy summer afternoon.
We knew the fruit was off limits, our parents had told us as much. The widow who lived there was reportedly mean and screamed at little children. Everyone talked about her behind her back. Children were afraid of her, but the plums were sweet, and ripe, and juicy. The orchard was so enticing! And so we entered in…. Like a stealth bomber, we snuck in under the radar and filled our shirts to overflowing.
Then it happened, the screen door flew open, and out she came screaming and swinging her broom over her head. She looked like the wicked witch from the Wizard of Oz! We froze in our tracks and then scattered like the guilty lake urchins that we were. Plums flew in the air, and then the widow’s screams turned to tears and sobs.
We ran away breathless until we collapsed in my yard behind the safety of our fence. Finally catching our breath we vowed never to speak of what had just happened. It would be our well kept secret, sworn to silence like the blood brothers and sisters we hoped to be from our Native American neighbors in rural north Florida.
Several days passed and a timid knock came at the back porch door. As I peered around my mother’s apron, I saw the wicked witch. But this time, she didn’t seem so scary. She seemed sad, weary from the walk and dusty from the dirt road that ran in front of our house and mimicked the shore of the lake. With a sigh she said, Mrs. Wiatt, “They’ve been stealing my plums again…I don’t know what to do. I count on selling my plum jam to make ends meet when the cupboard is bare.”
Guilty was the look on my face. My quivering lip gave me away and the look of disappointment from my mother could not be translated into words that could be spoken at Cherry Lake United Methodist Church!
When my father came home, I was allowed to pick my own switch and receive the punishment that I knew I deserved.
What is it about a guilty conscience that calls us to the woodshed? Why do we do the things we do? The Apostle Paul wrote with great confidence and truth,
“So I find that, as a rule, when I want to do what is good, evil is right there with me.
I gladly agree with the Law on the inside,
but I see a different law at work in my body. It wages a war against the law of my mind and takes me prisoner with the law of sin that is in my body.
I’m a miserable human being. Who will deliver me from this dead corpse?
Thank God through Jesus Christ our Lord! So then I’m a slave to God’s Law in my mind, but I’m a slave to sin’s law in my body.”
-Romans 7:21-25 (Common English Bible)
Lord have mercy, Christ have mercy, Lord have mercy!
I Love Being Your Pastor,