When I was five, my grandmother, Margaret Turner, kept my sister and me for a week. She and my grandpa lived in a rambling old farmhouse, where many childhood memories originate.
For breakfast, she usually served us oatmeal with farm fresh cream and butter. We also had home processed bacon, homemade biscuits, and milk gravy. And in the middle of the table set a bowl of stewed prunes. They weren’t the pitted kind found on grocery shelves today. They weren’t wrapped individually in cellophane, nor did they have the essence of orange squeezed into their wrinkly bodies. These were plain prunes with pits.
Grandma Turner didn’t pamper us by removing the large seeds. After all, we’d seen adults eat prunes and spit out a seed into their spoon or napkin, and then place it on their plate rim. Grandma must have assumed we had watched and assimilated the information and knew how to eat prunes.
One morning, my little sis, Sherry, and I sat at the kitchen table on the bench seat. Grandma laid out breakfast for us, serving four prunes each. After blessing the food and God who supplied it, she left the room for a few minutes. Maybe she went to make beds. Maybe she just needed a few minutes to herself to nurse her cup of coffee, away from the early bird chatterboxes.
There we sat with our special plates in front of us, Sherry had a ruby red one, and I ate off the blue willow pattern. I still remember the particular day. When my grandmother walked back in the room, she heard me say to my younger sister, “Sherry, you’re too little to swallow the seeds. You got to spit them out.”
In horror, Grandma looked around my plate – all four of my prunes were absent. No pits in sight. I can hear my grandmother’s voice today, edged with concern, “Oh, honey, you don’t swallow those big old seeds, either.” I don’t know how my tiny throat managed to get those rough pits down when I now sometimes struggle to swallow a calcium supplement.
This week’s scripture verse comes from the book of Joshua, which tells the history of him leading the Israelites to conquer lands God commanded for them to possess. Long before Joshua, God promised Abraham that his descendants would inherit certain mountains, streams, and deserts. Joshua’s advance fighting men accepted the courage God willingly gave them to accomplish the conquering of these lands. Hand-to-hand combat required understanding, strong minds, and bodies.
Stories from the Old Testament confirm that when both the chosen Israelites and foreign nations descended into self will and ignored God, God often used invading enemies as a measure to bring about justice and allegiance to God’s will.
Today, one of the reasons some say that they don’t believe in God are those long ago battles against indigenous peoples. A third grade boy in a Tyler, Texas Sunday school, sat in on a similar discussion about the perceived harshness of punishing those who forsook God. After much thought, the lad came up with his own satisfactory explanation, “I think in Old Testament times God wasn’t a Christian, yet.”
Both the Israelites and pagan nations knew of the miracles God performed in Egypt. But people in both camps dismissed the miracles. Many Israelites gradually grew to trust God. And even some of the pagans came to belief and repented, such as Rahab of Jericho, and much later, the Assyrians, who lived in the capitol of Nineveh, heeded Jonah’s preaching and repented.
If we continue to learn about God, he reveals his nature and myths are dispelled. The swallowing of the prune seeds actually put my mind to rest about watermelon seeds. When I was a child, an adult had teasingly told me that vines would sprout from my tummy if I swallowed melon seeds. Low on knowledge, I had taken the gardening myth as gospel. Grandma Turner assumed I knew how to eat prunes, but granddaughter and grandmother both had some learning to do.
As I reread Joshua this week, it was difficult to read about the battles. But I have faith that infinite God remains wiser than my human ways and thoughts. His plans are perfect, he teaches us what to swallow about him and what to discard as myths. All our lives, we do best when we put aside assumptions and remain teachable and open to learning.
Index Card Scripture for Week Six: “Be strong and courageous. Do not be terrified; do not be discouraged, for the LORD your God will be with you wherever you go” (Joshua 1:9).