Pomegranates used to make me groan. Sure, the seeds were juicy, but tearing the fruit apart is hard work to get to the intense blood red-colored seed. It’s a lot of work for a few tasty seeds. Seeing the pomegranate during the holidays recently brought me to an image of the fruit crashing into a cement wall, exploding into a thousand pieces.
Like the pomegranate, people appear consistent and whole from the outside. Like the fruit, with hundreds of seeds compartmentalized into different sections, we have a complex inner structure, divided by different experiences, memories and feelings. Our inner self is a whole which is made up of many different identities.
We see this when we are in different settings. At church, work or in private, we behave with different morals and motivations. Our language at the ballpark may be different than how we speak in our chamber of commerce. Our behavior in our computer life may be different than our behavior in our Sunday school class. Our actions with spouses, children, neighbors and coworkers demonstrate different parts of who we are and how mature psychologically and spiritually those parts can be. At times we can be mature and admirable, at other times childish and vile.
We are a whole identity, the overall picture of many good and bad identities, the godly and not-so-godly. These different parts added together make up who we are as a whole.
We grow and mature our inner parts as our environment, our physical and emotional state, and the state of our relationships prompt us to make choices. We are prompted by trials and sufferings that affect who we are emotionally as well as spiritually, leading us to choices that bring us closer or more distant from God’s will.
Consider it pure joy, my brothers, when you are involved in various trials, because you know that the testing of your faith produces endurance. But you must let endurance have its full effect, so that you may be mature and complete, lacking nothing.
James 1:2-4 (ISV)
God sees us as we are now, how we’ve been in the past and who we will be in the future. He sees all of us, including our individual parts as well as the whole, throughout time. He loved us when we were not yet born, and when we were not yet believers in Him. He loves us through time, and He shapes us. He intervenes in our lives, providing us with the relationships and situations which shape growth and development of all of our parts, towards a more mature, more whole child of God.
Your eyes saw me when I was formless;
all my days were written in Your book and planned
before a single one of them began.
Psalm 139:16 (HCSB)
The pomegranate has many biblical references as well as a long Middle Eastern history, spotlighting it for a spiritual metaphor. Its hundreds of seeds, many compartments and clusters, represent our many inward parts that are subject to redemption and growth. It can also remind us of the patience of God who redeems every immature part of us so we can know Him more.
Behold, You desire truth in the inward parts,
And in the hidden part You will make me to know wisdom.
Psalm 51:6 (NKJV)
As we undergo conflicts, suffering and trials, we endure and make choices. As we endure, the Spirit transforms our different inner parts, just as God ripens the clusters of pomegranate seeds to a sweet and unique taste. So we grow to Christian maturity, towards a more complete and whole created person, a pleasing offering to God.