I love spending time with my children. One of the ways I do this is by watching movies with them. This is something my mom and I used to do on the weekends. One movie I’ve watched with my children is Kung Fu Panda. Did you ever think you could find a profound truth while being entertained with your children?
Well, there’s a part of the movie where two characters are talking, a teacher Master Shifu; a red panda, and his mentor Oogway; a turtle. Master Shifu is training Po; a fat panda he believes can never be the mystical dragon warrior. He has an idea of what the dragon warrior looks like and it is not Po. He can only see Po for who he appears to be and not for what he can or may be. Master Shifu is having a hard time letting go of control and trusting that there is a higher power at work helping things to be, just as they need to be. They are standing in a garden by a peach tree when they have this discussion.
Oogway looks to Shifu and says, “My friend, the panda will never fulfill his destiny, nor you yours until you let go of the illusion of control.” “Illusion?” asks Shifu. “Yes” says Oogway as he points to the peach tree. “Look at this tree, Shifu. I cannot make it blossom when it suits me nor make it bear fruit before its time.” “But there are things we can control. I can control when the fruit will fall” Shifu says as he knocks fruit off the tree, “I can control where to plant the seed; that is no illusion, Master!” “Ah, yes”, replies Oogway, “But no matter what you do, that seed will grow to be a peach tree. You may wish for an apple or an orange, but you will get a peach.” “But a peach cannot defeat Tai Lung!” Shifu emphatically explains. “Maybe it can, if you are willing to guide it, to nurture it, to believe in it”, says Oogway as he tries to get Shifu to understand. “But how? How? I need your help, master”, Shifu implores. “No, you just need to believe. Promise me, Shifu, promise me you will believe”, asks Oogway as he leaves.
There are times in our lives when we cannot look past the appearance of something or the expectation of what we are looking for. For example, when I started studying the Book of Mormon to gain a testimony of its truthfulness, I had an expectation of what the answer should look like. It took me many months of searching, pondering, and praying before I was able to receive my answer. And when the answer came, it did not look anything like what I had expected. I was looking for apples or oranges when it was in fact a peach. It seemed the more I prayed and sought out an answer, the more peaches I got. And every time a peach came along, I would toss it aside saying, “This isn’t what I was looking for” until I had a mountain of peaches. It took the Lord being very bold and loud to get me to look past my expectations and see what He was showing me.
Now this is an instance of seeking personal revelation. But how many other kinds of instances do we walk into a situation or see a person with an expectation of what it or they have to look like. When we do that we miss out on so much and it will generally take us longer to receive the very thing we are searching for. As great as apples or oranges are, isn’t a peach just as wonderful. And how much more wonderful is it, if it is the very thing we stood in need of.
In Max Lucado’s book “Cure for the Common Life”, he uses this analogy to explain how we miss out in our relationships by assuming what a person’s life should look like.
A gardener gave a seedling to his friend, the orange grower. “Consider this a gift.” An orchestra conductor presented a package to her favorite cellist. “Just because I appreciate your work,” she told her. An artist thanked a plumber for his neighborliness by giving him a present.
And so the orange grower, the cellist, and the plumber unwrapped their gifts.
The orange grower planted the seedling, anticipating oranges. After all, he grew oranges, so this must be an orange-tree-to-be. But the plant spread into bushy, clustered branches. The orange grower couldn’t coax a single orange out of his grove. He sprinkled it with orange-tree fertilizer, sprayed it with orange-tree bug spray. He even poured orange juice on the soil. But alas, no oranges. Tomatoes, yes. But oranges, no. He felt like a failure.
The cellist empathized. She had expected a cello. She was somewhat correct. The package contained an accordion. She treated the accordion like a cello, setting the base on the floor and running her bow across the keys. Noise came forth, but no music. She was less enthused.
As was the plumber. He expected a gift of wrenches and hammers, but he was given a brush and palette. Puzzled, he set out to repair a leaky pipe with his new tools. But brushes don’t open valves, and a palette won’t tighten joints. He painted the plumbing and grumbled.
Each assumed the gift would be what they knew rather than what the giver gave.
Each year God gives millions of parents a gift, a brand-new baby. They tend to expect oranges, cellos, and plumbing tools. Heaven tends to distribute tomatoes, accordions, and paint supplies. Moms and dads face a decision. Make our children in our images? (I would like to add, and our images for them) Or release our children to follow their God-given identities?
Now Max is speaking to parents about their children, but I believe this applies to any relationship. How often are we looking at the people in our lives with an expectation of what they have to look like and what their lives must be like? I believe we do this not meaning to harm but trying to help ensure their happiness. But who are we to decide what that image is. Isn’t that God’s job? How often do we step on the agency or dream of another person in our desire to help them be what we expect? And how do we know that our expectations will make them happier than God’s plans for them?
Max says that, “parents can prepare the soil and sow the seed, but God gives the growth. Show them the path? Yes. Force them to take it? No.” Following this example he says, “…learn to love tomatoes, appreciate the sound of an accordion, take art supplies to the canvas, not the sink, and view each child as a book, not to be written, but to be read.”
Here are two different sources, one is a cartoon, the other a book, but I believe that both are helping us to see a truth. That when we have an expectation of what something or someone has to look like, we become blind to the very things we search for and create our own heartache from the frustration of our unfulfilled desires. It is only when we let go and open ourselves to all possibilities, whatever they may be, and trust in God, that He is able to provide what we are searching for.
So the next time you find yourself becoming frustrated because your answer wasn’t an apple or the person in your life wasn’t an orange, take a moment and ponder that there are just as many reasons to celebrate the peaches in your life, as a gift from God who always knows just what is best. Then go out and learn to be grateful and love them anyway, just as they are, in whatever form your peach comes in.
I believe that once you have an ‘intention’ with the desire of paying ‘attention’ to what God desires, you are then on the road to creating the kind of lasting joy that comes from serving and giving love without design or desire of an expectation. Once you do this, you will begin to see the doors and windows of heaven open and bring you the very things you desire.
And when life hands you peaches, make peach cobbler!