Dr. Bob sent this reflection in the early spring. The editor just got around to publishing it in the early summer!
My Redemption Rhubarb is off to a good start. We planted it last fall. It is one of the earliest things to emerge and looks like it survived the winter very well. The rhubarb plant was a gift from Beth. A great gift. An important gift and a second chance for me. God is all about second chances. I am thankful for that.
Redemption Rhubarb is not a new variety known for it’s early vigor, resistance to rhubarb rust, and robust taste. Redemption rhubarb is my own second chance with this particular species. Rhubarb and I did not get off to a good start.
My first encounter with this plant was in Grandpa’s garden when I was about five years old. My Grandpa Buehler’s garden was the wonder of all wonders for me. One day when I was ‘helping him’ in the garden, I saw my first rhubarb plant. I was no doubt struck by it’s beautifully rich red and green foliage. I asked him if I could taste it. He told me I would not like it. I asked again. He told me I wouldn’t like it. So, being a self respecting five year old, I asked him again. He relented. Grandpa cut a stalk of rhubarb for me and told me I needed to eat it.
I took a bite. I realized (too late) that Grandpa had provided great advice. At least three times, but who was counting. When Grandpa went inside, I threw the rhubarb behind some bushes right beside the door. Grandpa found it. He asked me if I put I there. I said ‘no.’ He asked me again. I said ‘no.’ Within about a five minute span, I disobeyed my grandfather and then lied about it. Twice. My five year old version of Peter’s denial. This was over 50 years ago. I still remember it vividly.
Grandpa possessed a quiet strength and had an air of goodness about him with a depth of wisdom that was obvious to all. Tom Bombadill in The Lord of the Rings described a farmer who lived on the edge of The Shire and also essentially described my grandfather; “There’s earth under his old feet, and clay on his fingers; wisdom in his bones, and both his eyes are open.”
If you asked me when I was five years old what God looked like and you drew who I described, you would find a remarkable resemblance to my Grandpa Buehler. Except God would be wearing red and He would have a beard. Grandpa B probably never wore red and he didn’t have a beard.
As a young boy, I had not yet seen God, but I had seen Grandpa B. I did not realize it at the time, but I was actually seeing God through my grandfather. I understand it better now since I have seen God the Son. I was truly seeing God in my Grandpa Buehler. I could see the light of Jesus Christ in his eyes, in has actions, and in his love for me. And I disobeyed him.
The rhubarb is not just another plant in my garden. It is an important symbol of my redemption. Grandpa forgave me. He did not love me any less when I disobeyed him and lied to him. He also did not ‘let me off the hook.’ God also forgives me for my sins. Over and over again. Pure, unmerited, wonderful Grace.
I also learned how not to eat rhubarb. A fresh tomato, hot off the vine right out of the garden is a gift. Rhubarb? Not so much. Later this summer, I will ask Beth to make a strawberry-rhubarb pie with sugar. Lots and lots of sugar. And I will have yet another taste of sweet redemption.