How a Willow Switch Protected a Blueberry Delight

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I was about 12 years old when spending more and more days and nights with my grandma Hall (my mom’s mom) became common: dad was very sick and mom sent me to grandma’s house so that she could be away at the hospital with dad or in the summertime, put in an 8 hour day at work.

One late summer day with grandma baby-sitting several of her grandchildren, she specifically said to me, “don’t go past the curve or I’ll give you a good switch’n. I don’t want you kids ran over – I want to be able to see you from the house.” She was wise enough to know that I was always the ring-leader of outlaw behavior. It seemed that whatever I did, the rest would follow, for good or bad. Grandma was not being fussy: the one-lane twisting road to her house was full of blind spots for cars to run over playing children. She wanted us to stay close to the house.

One day when several of my cousins and I were playing near the curve, I led the whole pack of us past the curve, down a straight-away past the “creepy house” and into the next curve so that we could slide down the embankment on our rears. We were muddy and having a blast. Then I looked up. There she comes down the road at us – at me, with a willow branch in her hands (one of the worst sounds in the world is your grandma stripping the leaves off a willow branch: phft, phft, phft, phft!!!). The next thing I remember is feeling the stinging, needling, expertise of a grandma’s switching method on my legs. Later on in life I came to love her for it. You know why?

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You see, across the creek in her back yard was that willow tree where those nasty discipline branches grow, but just behind the tree up the hillside were several blueberry bushes. And in late July, early August, she and I would pick blueberries together, all alone just the two us. Grandma was so fun to be around and she truly enjoyed my presence. We’d wash them off. She’d put them in a bowl of cold milk, sprinkle some sugar in the bowl, and we’d sit at her L – shaped counter across from each other talking and enjoying our favorite dessert. I believe she loved me so much that she was willing to bring some temporary pain to my legs in order to protect me from getting injured or killed, so that . . . we could spend wonderful afternoons together enjoying a blueberry delight. 

It’s part of what it means to be human: anything worth enjoying in this life will take a stern resolve to oppose whatever threatens your joy. This is why our Lord will discipline his children (Hebrews 12:7-11; 1 Peter 1:6-9), in order to protect our walk with him.

This life is painful. You can either suffer and never know the purpose or meaning behind your suffering. Or, you can follow the Lord and be sure that every sorrow that is permitted into your life is to protect your eternal joy. I had a grandma who taught me that, and I am grateful.