And He showed me a pure river of water of life, clear as crystal. . . . In the midst of the street of it, and on either side of the river, was there the tree of life, which bare twelve manner of fruits, and yielded her fruit every month (Rev. 22: 1, 2).*
From the Netherlands, my sister Amorelle sent me a photo taken in her townhouse. In that January photo, snowflakes drifted outside the large picture window. But inside, defying the winter outside, leaves from miscellaneous green plants reached for the warmth of the tempered glass. Nestled among the greenery was a round living fruit—a pomegranate, a tropical pomegranate growing in the warm room while outside snowflakes insisted on the winter. Meanwhile, my own pomegranate tree growing outside in the warm soil of the Caribbean is producing leaves.
Is there something wrong with this picture? Should my pomegranate tree in warm St. Croix, United States Virgin Islands, be empty of fruit while another in the cold Netherlands celebrates its fertility?
I hope that one day I will see fruit growing on my sunbaked pomegranate tree. Meanwhile, I am still fascinated by the contrast, the incongruity, of the winter pomegranate and its message of life in spite of death. And now I want to be a winter pomegranate, a witness for growth where death surrounds; a testimony to life, pandemic notwithstanding; blossoming, growing, and bearing despite dark days and cold death, despite the challenge of snowflakes floating, flying, flown and blown against my face.
The apostle Paul, John the Revelator, Stephen, and so many others all were sons of indomitable spring, winter pomegranates thriving in chains and dungeons while snowstorms and blizzards of torture and hatred assaulted their prison picture windows.
The apostle Paul wrote four of his 13 letters to churches while bound in chains, never once complaining about the shackles cutting into his flesh or the vermin crawling around and on him. He was just happy to bear the marks of punishment for the Savior he worshipped. He was honored to bear his own cross, calling himself an “ambassador in bonds” (Eph. 6: 20) growing his own pomegranate, larger and sweeter every day in the midst of the blizzard of hatred, scorn, and murder. Whether in the raging storm of persecution or the cold silence of isolation, he grew and thrived, writing yet another letter to encourage another struggling church; to encourage us.
Then there is the apostle John, who wrote the Book of Revelation while exiled, imprisoned on the island of Patmos, considering himself a “companion in tribulation” (Rev. 1: 9). We can imagine the cold, the hunger, the loneliness, and the pain. But to John, those challenges were just snowflakes drifting and flying outside in the bitter cold. Inside—inside his soul—he, like Paul, could contemplate “a city that hath foundations, whose builder and maker is God” (Heb. 11:10). John was happy to be growing pomegranates while the bitter winter of persecution swirled outside.
Our winter is coming, if it has not yet arrived; if the global pandemic or some personal assault has not delivered it to our country, our town, our village, our home, our heart. How many of us have shriveled up in the cold, challenging days of brokenness, sickness, and abuse, waiting for the better days of distant spring?
Pretending that there is no winter in our lives, denying the reality of a pandemic, may be an option someone needs to survive. Mourning that spring is long in coming may sound like realistic pessimism. But how much better to understand that fall or winter, summer or spring, we can always live in the strong embrace of the Lord of all seasons—of dark and dank and life and light, the risen Son of rising suns and ever-blooming springs and gorgeous pomegranates. How much better to thrive in the truth of His resurrection power, bearing sweet soul-satisfying fruit, triumphant over whatever may be happening outside; producing love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, meekness, and temperance, the honeyed fruit of the Spirit; conquering the blizzards of disease and hate, apathy and prejudice, swirling just outside the picture window of our earthly prisons.
Like John we, too, can stare across the ocean of a lonely exile and still see, by faith, the brighter future, as Jesus shows us “a pure river of water of life, clear as crystal. . . . In the midst of the street of it, and on either side of the river, was there the tree of life, which bare twelve manner of fruits, and yielded her fruit every month” (Rev. 22: 1, 2).
Hallelujah! I want to believe that in heaven, one month we will enjoy pomegranates—huge, sweet pomegranates grown in the sunshine of His love.
* All Bible texts are taken from the King James Version.