We Can’t Just Hope for Fruit
We lived in Yakima, Washington, for four years. Midway between Seattle and Spokane, but closer to the Columbia River, Yakima is a leader among all counties in the nation in the production of apples, hops, sweet cherries and mint.
Out and about each day, I would drive by acre after acre of orchards. Having lived only in urban areas, I loved being a part of an agricultural community. I now know what a smudge pot is, why farmers spray water on newly budding fruit trees in the middle of winter when the temperature drops below freezing, and the purpose of those shiny ribbons tied to the branches. Many of our friends worked in the fruit industry in Yakima, so we spent fall weekends picking apples and cherries.
And they worked hard. Up all night sometimes in the winter months, and long, long days during harvest season. Hard, never-ending work tending and nurturing the trees that produced the fruit.
From nothing, from chaos, God breathed light and land and llamas into existence. He does not need us to help Him work and create and love, but He asks us to. He wants us to. Our cooperation and participation in this work matters to Him and He calls us to it. To rule and subdue, to work it and keep it, to exercise dominion over the land, to speak peace in all relationships. Take charge! God says. We partner with Him for His kingdom to come here on earth as it is in heaven.
Can He bring hope into a hopeless, sad, struggling life all by Himself? Of course.
Can He create joy in one who’s binge watching Scandal, pounding down her favorite Le Croix, and finishing off the Christmas fudge (hypothetically speaking, of course)? Yes.
Can He nurture patience and kindness and faithfulness in the angry dad, the bitter woman, the off the rails teen? Absolutely.
Is He the God of the impossible able to do all things according to His perfect plan and will? Certainly.
But doesn’t it say that in the beginning He created male and female to rule and subdue the land, to be responsible for it? To work with Him calling out His image in all things? To proclaim shalom, speaking peace into every relationship on earth?
Yes. Yes. And yes.
Joy is my word for 2018.
It happens to be one of the fruits of the Spirit listed in Galatians 5.
As I’ve pondered this new word and thought about it in terms of being “fruit”, I’ve decided that I can’t just want more joy this year. I can’t just pray about being more joyful and then cross my fingers and hope God comes through.
If joy is a “fruit”, then there is a tree producing that fruit that must be tended, right?
And if there is a joy tree that needs to be nurtured in order for the joy fruit to grow, then what am I doing to cooperate with the Master Gardener in bringing a harvest of joy? Good fruit from that good tree.
In any garden or orchard, two things are necessary: Weeding and Feeding. Other things are happening too, but I’m not much of a gardener, so I’m keeping it simple.
Weeding and Feeding.
The question then becomes: How am I weeding and feeding the tree of life so that joy grows and matures in me?
What am I doing to cooperate with the God of Life so that my joy tree is healthy and produces good joy fruit? Or patience fruit? Or kindness fruit? Or self-control, faithfulness, goodness fruit?
What am I purposely pulling out, purposely putting in so the roots are healthy and free to make the tree healthy and free to produce fruit that is life-giving and life-affirming? Peace-speaking and very, very good?
Can God do this without me? Can He weed and feed without my help? Yes, yes, yes, He absolutely can! But He didn’t set it up that way.
In the beginning He created us to partner with Him to bring about love and joy and peace and patience, kindness, goodness, gentleness, faithfulness and self-control. All this fruit comes from somewhere, fruit trees! and these trees need to be tended, weeded and fed by us in partnership with the One who called them into being.
We can’t just want the fruit and hope and hope and hope and pray and pray and pray. Hoping and praying are good and right, but we must be willing to “work it and keep it” — what we were called to do from the beginning in the garden with Him. (See Genesis 1 and 2)
Are you weeding and feeding the tree of life in your garden so that the fruit of the Spirit grows and matures in you?
Do you want good fruit?
How’s your tree?