Undergirding the simple joys in life are the qualities of thoughtfulness and good intent. I have discovered this truth at the end of the watermelon vine where innocence ripens in suspended time. Nothing snaps you instantly into childhood like watermelon. No questing necessary. Unlike pot roast or dumplings that satisfy the stomach, watermelon is a comfort food that tickles some remembered, pixeled innocent joy.
The picture evokes sitting on the back steps, shirtless, barefooted, eating half wedges down to the rind. I cared little about the juice dripping down my chest and worried more about the vine growing out of my ears after swallowing seeds.
I remember my feet gripping healthy centipede grass, my back arched and head cocked. The next move was pivotal because a forward body thrust always accompanies a good spit. It also requires a simultaneous sucking of air to be used as propulsion. At this point, seeds become confused about coming and going. Proper seed-spitting technique hazards the accidental swallow.
I’m jealous of cousin Ben who grows and sells watermelons. I’m guessing he cheats his profit from time to time cracking open a good climber on the vine. A good farmer knows his product and there’s no better test than savoring the heart of a watermelon in the field. There are more refined ways to eat watermelon, but none closer to creation than a furrowed row. As we say in the South, “It just don’t get no better.”
My favorite refined recipe came from Miss Ellen and is as follows: cut watermelon into cube-sized bites, place in bowl, add the juice of a good lime or two, sprinkle in some fresh mint leaves and feta cheese. Eat until finished. Make some more. Repeat the next day. When the watermelon is gone, buy another one. It’s hard to have buyer’s remorse with watermelon. Thank you, Miss Ellen.
When grace found me, when I finally allowed it to wash over me like that watermelon juice did during those innocent, shirtless, fun, seed-spitting days, I found peace. Grace delivered a sweetness I could not find on my own. Living in grace meant failure was no longer a means to hide behind a resolute ego.
Before grace, I kept bumping into failure while small victories perpetuated the illusion I could handle life on my own. Living untethered from God’s vine, defeat continually exposed my vulnerabilities. When grace came, my weakness became God’s strength. I could hear God and see God. I learned to live in community and forgiveness.
“Abide in Me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in Me” (John 15:4, NKJV). Grace tethered me to the vine and the vinedresser.
There may be a few more seeds to swallow before God is finished with me, more time for those vines to grow from my ears.
“Those who have ears to hear, let them hear” (Matthew 11:15, NKJV).