About four years ago I did the thing I had begun to wish I’d done eleven years before when we first moved into our little house as newlyweds. I planted some fruit trees, bushes, and perenial fruit plants on our postage stamp sized lot, even though I didn’t know how much longer we would stay there. The prospects of moving onto something bigger and better had held us back all that time. We might move and then by the time harvest came, we’d be long gone and someone else would be eating our blueberries. By 2012, I guess I’d finally realized that wasn’t Kingdom thinking, and even though it’s just a little bit of fruit on a little bit of land, the Kingdom is at hand, and who cares who gets to reap if you’re sowing goodness, love, and hope in the form of organic food? Besides, I had a hunch I’d meet the Gardener out there.
So my beloved husband, dug what felt like a million deep holes, actually five, two feet deep, and six, a foot deep, but he’s merciful enough that he’d probably not remember the tally. If I ever doubt he loves me, I only need to think of those sweaty, weary days with a shovel, a few other hand tools, and brute, quiet, uncomplaining strength. It was hard work. We didn’t know what we were getting into. He did the hard stuff and I helped some, but I don’t know a woman who can dig that many deep holes in hard, Carolina clay.
That’s the thing about fruit. It looks so good. The promise is so inviting, but the catalog doesn’t mention how much labor is involved. If you really want fruit, it’s a big commitment! I’m not talking about a couple intense weekends. I’m talking about years of waiting, watering, and fertilizing.
The catalog was honest about the waiting, at least. Even strawberries don’t usually bear the first year. If they try, you’re supposed to pinch off those first tempting buds so the roots will go deep. You want to force the plant to put the energy in the roots, not the fruit. Next year’s harvest makes it worth it. I love talking to Jesus about this stuff in the garden.
Well, I was a realist to some degree about the timing, but I did want some fruit that first year, so I tenaciously searched for something more satisfying in the short term and was rewarded. I planted ground cherries. They are annuals, so they produced in 4 months. The bonus was that ground cherries grow in Kenya, my husband’s homeland. It was a sweet, surprising gift from our Father to stumble upon something my husband had munched on while tending his grandfather’s goats as a child. He deserved it after all that digging and we plant them and they self sow every year now.
I think that’s how it is with the fruit of the Spirit. While we’re waiting on one and just about to give up, another comes and surprises you. We probably all have one or that comes easy and quick, but the others we abide in Him and wait. For some it’s patience, others self control, but I don’t know anyone who is just born bearing all the fruit of the Spirit. That’s why He called it fruit, not vegetables.
(Blueberry in waiting.)
Next, the strawberries produced. Blueberries are coming, but the birds and kids usually beat me to them. I don’t mind sharing and look forward to the day when there’s ample for us all. I still haven’t had success with apples, figs apricots, or peaches, but I am thankful that God is much better at tending us and making sure we bear fruit then I’ve been with the trees.
The trees have taught me something more, though that has made it worth the investment. It might be even more painful than waiting. Pruning. My family looks at me like I shot their favorite dog for simply barking every time I prune those trees. I already feel guilty, and a little unsure doing it. After all, I only have read a little bit about it, and am usually googling just to refresh my memory before I start using the pruning shears. Their stares tell me they think I’m Jeffrey Dommer of fruit trees, or something. I feel like they think I’m getting it all wrong, but Marlin says I’m reading too much into it. Whatever those strange looks I get while I prune mean, I don’t stop.
(Apricot blossom, I think. This tree didn’t make it. They’re not very easy to grow organically in North Carolina, at least in my experience. See how pretty it is? Who could cut such a delightful little tree? Turns out, I can.)
Here’s why- I was at someone’s house during peach harvest one year and our friend had a two- by- four propping up a limb. I hadn’t noticed how it was rigged, but I recognize peach trees now that I have a little experience, so I was admiring the bountiful fruits, and inquired about his success. He pointed out what he had to do to keep the branch from breaking. It looked pretty rough. The tree was practically split down the middle. I don’t know if it survived to see the next year. I never forgot how his voice fell with these words, “I just never had the heart to prune them.” I thanked God silently for having the heart to prune us, even when we misunderstand Him or are unsure how this could possibly work out for our good. He’s willing to take a great risk with our hearts in order to bring us into fullness. He trusts that we’ll trust Him.
I also remembered what the book I read said about pruning, the pruner always prunes with the biggest harvest in mind. An unpruned tree may produce well for many years of average harvests, but watch out when a bumper crop comes! The branches become so heavy a tree can just be ripped apart by the weight of the fruit, and even die. What heartache after such an investment of time and tender care! Believe me, after planting and caring for those trees for any length of time, pruning feels like cutting your own arm off. It’s a painful feeling for the pruner as well as the pruned. It’s my least favorite of all gardening tasks. You wish there was another way, but if you want a healthy tree that remains strong, even after large harvests for many years, you do the hard part of cutting off the branches that are crowded or coming in in a less than profitable way.
Beloved, our Pruner may seem cruel at times, if we don’t have eyes to see, but it gives me comfort that He’s certainly more compassionate than myself. Pruning us is very painful for Him. In Visions of Heaven, Wendy Alec gives a testimony about something the Father showed her after a long traumatic season of severe illness. In an spiritual experience, she was given a blue dress and put it on. She looked down and was shocked to see blood soaking the fabric around her heart. She knew it was pain from the severe season of testing. The Lord showed her a large clear container of her tears from that season. Then He pulled out a much larger container of His own that He had cried with her in those severe times of testing. He poured His tears over her and the dress was clean. She was whole. That picture has been medicine for my broken heart. It hurts Him to see us in pain. He’s with us.
We may miss the compassion in His eyes when we see the pruning shears or feel the cut, but make no mistake, His desire is to prosper us more than we can imagine. One thing about Jesus is that He never asks us to do something He hasn’t already experienced. Jesus submitted to being pruned by His Father. He learned obedience by the things He suffered. That’s mind- boggling to me, because He was God, so what in Him needed pruning? Somehow in His humanness, He submitted to training, without sin for our benefit and intimacy with Him. It’s in the scriptures.
He will watch that wounded place He cuts and make sure it heals so you are stronger in the long run. He is looking forward with hope to our future. We are His delight. He wants us to be able to bear the harvest and not break beneath it’s weight. He’s a good Father. He knows our future, our call, and knows exactly which branch will serve us, and which needs to go to make room for more, to allow us to grow stronger in Him.
I need this truth deeper myself, and He is faithful. I will trust Him by His grace. Thanks for reading. I hope you already know this deep, but if you’re like me, take heart. Be strong and courageous. He’s good, faithful and true. He’s a promise keeper. If we let Him, and by His enormous grace, even when we kick against the goads, every hard step in your life can bring you deeper into His heart for us, which is fruitfulness. It will be worth it, beloved. Beloved, be loved. Settle down, make yourself at home in His love. Know that His wings will cover you through this storm, and these rains will make us grow.
But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law.
Galatians 5:22-23 NASB
“And we desire that each one of you show the same diligence so as to realize the full assurance of hope until the end, so that you will not be And we desire that each one of you show the same diligence so as to realize the full assurance of hope until the end, so that you will not be sluggish, but imitators of those who through faith and patience inherit the promises.Hebrews 6:11-12 NASB
“I am the true vine, and My Father is the vinedresser. Every branch in Me that does not bear fruit, He takes away; and every branch that bears fruit, He prunes it so that it may bear more fruit. You are already clean because of the word which I have spoken to you. Abide in Me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself unless it abides in the vine, so neither can you unless you abide in Me. I am the vine, you are the branches; he who abides in Me and I in him, he bears much fruit, for apart from Me you can do nothing. If anyone does not abide in Me, he is thrown away as a branch and dries up; and they gather them, and cast them into the fire and they are burned. If you abide in Me, and My words abide in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you. My Father is glorified by this, that you bear much fruit, and so prove to be My disciples. Just as the Father has loved Me, I have also loved you; abide in My love. If you keep My commandments, you will abide in My love; just as I have kept My Father’s commandments and abide in His love. These things I have spoken to you so that My joy may be in you, and that your joy may be made full.
John 15:1-11 NASB
In the days of His flesh, He offered up both prayers and supplications with loud crying and tears to the One able to save Him from death, and He was heard because of His piety. Although He was a Son, He learned obedience from the things which He suffered. And having been made perfect, He became to all those who obey Him the source of eternal salvation.
Hebrews 5:7-9 NASB