Lessons From a Pickle

My youngest loves pickles. So earlier this year, I thought it would be fun to buy some seeds and try my hand at raising cucumbers. Now, I must be honest and tell you that though I love having a garden, I’m one of those gardeners who loses enthusiasm as the season drags on. In early March, I’m outside digging in the still semi-frozen dirt, anxious to get my peas and lettuce in the ground. I spend April, May, and most of June dutifully weeding and watering my young plants. Then July hits. And it gets hot. And the weeds keep returning. And the deer eat my strawberry plants. And the green beans are ready to harvest . . . and there are always so many of them. My enthusiasm wanes and the garden begins to look like a pile of ancient ruins behind my back deck. And, if I’m honest, I don’t care. 

That’s where I was at this past July. My son wanted pickles, I had planted the pickling cucumbers, I hadn’t looked at them in weeks, and honestly, I didn’t care. My dad came over the one day, and as he walked through my garden, I asked him if my cucumbers were ready yet. He gave me a knowing smile and suggested that perhaps my cucumbers were a tad overripe. Now, when he said tad, I  thought maybe they could still be saved. However, reality hit when I went outside the following day to pick them. They were beyond being a tad overripe.  Instead of looking like a normal cucumber you would use for pickling, mine looked more like this.

They were beyond saving. 

Before I had a chance to share the disappointing news with my son, I got a sweet text from my dad. He had a peck of pickles if I could use them. (My dad always saves the day.)  So, just a couple of days later, I found myself with a peck of pickles ready to be pickled. And, because I’m a good mom, I enlisted the help of my children in preparing the cucumbers for the canning jars. I showed each one how to slice the fruit and pack the jars and busied myself getting the pickling liquid ready. As I began filling the jars, I made an interesting observation, however. Though each child received the same instructions, no jar of pickles looked the same. 

Here is a jar belonging to my oldest. My firstborn, my rule follower. Aside from the seeds, he basically did what I showed him to do. He cut the pickles into long spears and packed them vertically in the jars.  

My daughter, the middle born, and the only girl cut her’s differently. She cut hers in circles because they look prettier that way. 

And then there was my youngest, the one who requested the pickles in the first place. He cut his in a manner that took the absolute least amount of effort and time.

When questioned, he told me that it didn’t matter what they looked like. They would taste just the same. Sometimes I can’t fault his logic.  

Three kids. Three very different and unique ways of approaching the task at hand. But, when it came down to it, it honestly didn’t matter how the cucumbers were cut. They might not win the blue ribbon at the fair, but they would all still taste like pickles. 

That got me thinking. As moms, we’re a lot like those pickles. We’re different. We don’t all look the same. We come in all different shapes, sizes, and temperaments. We don’t all mother the same. We differ in our bedtime routines, the manner in which we discipline, and the experiences we choose to give our kids. Even the story of how each of us became is mom is different and unique. Just like those pickles didn’t look the same, neither do we as moms. 

I recently read a post by Pastor Dennis Lee that talked about our uniqueness. Here’s a portion of that post:

“You really don’t have to travel far to discover just how much God loves diversity and variety. Think about it: God made over 300,000 species of beetles. Now some might call that creative overkill. But God loves variety. 

Did you know that in one cubic foot of snow there are 18 million individual snowflakes and not one of them alike? And while we can’t tell the difference, it’s just snow to us, God notices and created each one of them.

God likes variety in people too. If you ever had to wait for an airplane or stand in line at Wal-Mart, you’ll see all sorts of unique and peculiar people. God made every one of them individually, and when we look in the mirror we see just how great and peculiar we are.”

How often do you look in the mirror and see just how great and peculiar you are? I’ll be honest, the peculiar part is a little easier for me to identify than the great part. But, we’re reminded in the book of Psalm that there is indeed a great part. 

We were uniquely and carefully crafted by our Creator. We weren’t part of a massive heavenly production line or just thrown together at the last minute. No, there was a thoughtful and purposeful shaping and a knitting together of everything that makes you, you. There is no one in this entire world who is exactly like you, and that is a wonderful thing. 

In what ways are you unique? Do you ever struggle with those qualities you have that make you different from others? Do you ever look at the qualities found in others and find yourself a bit envious? Me too. In fact, I realized that I spend a lot of time comparing myself to others, and I usually come up with one of two conclusions. Either I am severely lacking in multiple areas of life, or I take on the attitude that I am doing this thing called life way better than someone else. Neither of those conclusions are healthy and if we’re being honest, neither of them are accurate either. Somewhere along the line, we’ve gotten it in our heads that we have to be everything and we have to do everything. We’ve set this unrealistic expectation before us of what it looks like to be a good woman, wife, and mom. But, the reality is that we weren’t created to be everything and we weren’t created to do everything. We were created uniquely with different gifts and different strengths. Mama, we need to get to the point where we can celebrate that. We need to get to the point where we can celebrate the giftings and strengths of others instead of beating ourselves up over the fact that we are not like them. But, how do we do that?

We need to realize that comparison can actually be gift. A gift that helps us see the reality of who we are and the woman we were created to be. Author, Abigail Dodds said the following: 

“Comparison is a fundamental part of being human, because it’s how we  acquaint ourselves with reality.” 

Think about that statement for a moment. Comparison is how we acquaint ourselves with reality. What is reality? Reality is I’m not good at everything. Reality is I mess up as a mom a lot. Realty is I’m not perfect. And I hate to break this to you, but the same realities ring true for you. You are not perfect and you never will be. God didn’t create you to be perfect. Only He can be perfect. There will always be someone who is better than you at something. Instead of using comparison to beat ourselves up, what if we simply used comparison to accept the truth of how God created us?

Comparison can also be a tool to help us grow. Often, we use comparison as a measuring stick. We use it to identify all of the many ways we fall short compared to others. But, what if instead of using comparison as a measuring stick, we used it more like a set of pruners? Pruners are used to cut out unhealthy or unneeded parts of a plant to encourage new growth. Instead of comparing the many ways we don’t measure up to others, what if we used comparison as a means of identifying areas in which we could grow?

Abigail Dodds said, 

“Noticing (the differences among us)  isn’t a sin, but a gift, and it need not lead to the evaporation of our joy, but can be the water for its growth. Holy imitation isn’t about cramming ourselves into another’s mold. It’s about recognizing the Christlike principles another has applied to their life and figuring out how to apply them to ours.”

Think about an area in which you would love to grow? Do you have someone in your circle that you’ve observed might be strong in this area? What lessons can you take from watching her life? 

Abigail also said,

“What if, rather than pretending not to notice that our friend is excelling in homemaking and parenting (while we’re scraping by), we honored her by giving thanks to God for her obedience, her diligence, and her example of Christ that we can follow? What if we started observing her more closely, making more comparisons rather than less, so that we could tease out the principles of godliness present in her life and do likewise? What if, rather than smugly disdaining the mom who can’t get her act together, we offered her a better way? What if we actually said with Paul, ‘Be imitators of me, as I am of Christ,’ not because we think we’re better than she is, but because God has really done something profound in us and we’re confident he can do it in her, too? Leading our comparisons in the right direction — away from envy, pride, covetousness, and self-pity, and toward Christlike imitation and the fear of God — will turn us into better parents, mentors, and friends.”

How differently might this mothering journey look like if we recognized and celebrated the gifts and strengths we see in others? How differently might this mothering journey look like if instead of using comparison to measure our faults, we used it to help us grow? How differently might this mothering journey look like if made the choice to use our gifts and strengths to pour into others and to encourage them in their own journey? Celebrate one another’s gifts and strengths. Lift one another up in their weaknesses. Support, encourage, and love those in your tribe. 

Works Cited:

Biblegateway. https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=psalm+139%3A13-16&version=VOICE. Accessed 14 Sept. 2021. 

Dodds, Abigail. “Comparison Is Not the Thief of Joy.” DesiringGod, 16 Mar. 2018. https://www.desiringgod.org/articles/comparison-is-not-the-thief-of-joy. Accessed 14 Sept. 2021. 

Lee, Dennis. “God Made You Unique.” The Spectrum. https://www.thespectrum.com/story/life/features/mesquite/2016/09/16/god-made-you-unique/90364360/. Accessed 14 Sept. 2021. 

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