Paradox. Irony. Ambiguity. Life!
“It was the best of times. It was the worst of times.”
These are some ways to describe my life right now.
Since September 30th, 2015 life has not gone how I WANTED it to GO. My dreams and hopes seem shattered on rocks, and yet today I am more at peace, with joy and love than I could have expected.
I give thanks to God and the Fruits of the Spirit. From Paul’s letter to the Galatians….
” But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law.”
About two months ago I planted two tomato plants. One of them was killed the next day (it’s a mystery). This one survived and, if all conditions are good, it will produce fruit. The fruit it will produce is already in its genes. It was determined from the time it was a tiny seed. It will not produce the fruit of a peach or of a soybean. It is a tomato!
And by the Holy Spirit, each and every human being has the code of God (in whose image we were all created) written into them. And given the right conditions, do you know what fruit we will bear? 🙂
Love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control!
It’s there. Yipppppeeeeeee! There is hope.
But it’s not guaranteed. Like my other tomato plant, a lot can happen before fruit gets born.
I am not here to say that we are all good and bearing that fruit. I will be the first to say that I more often exhibit (especially in my heart) the opposing characteristics which Paul mentions in the sentences he writes right before….
“The acts of the flesh are obvious: sexual immorality, impurity and debauchery; idolatry and witchcraft; hatred, discord, jealousy, fits of rage, selfish ambition, dissensions, factions and envy; drunkenness, orgies, and the like. I warn you, as I did before, that those who live like this will not inherit the kingdom of God.”
Except for the orgy and witchcraft parts….I’m quite prone to those other acts.
And that is why this blog is called “Bearing Fruit.” I want to bear the fruit which God intended for me. I need all the help I can get and writing is one way that I stay focused on the good fruit.
So, it’s time for our assignment. (My editor says this part is not as engaging as my usual writing – aka “boring” – so if you want to scan through it, I understand.)
Did you do your homework? Did you bring your paper and writing utensil?
2 Peter, Chapter 1, Verses 5-8
Draw with me a picture, please.
“For this very reason, make every effort to add to your FAITH…” (At the bottom third of your piece of paper draw a seed with the word “faith” in the middle. This seed is a gift “For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith – and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God.” – Ephesians 2:8.)
“GOODNESS;…” (Slightly above your seed draw the ground line and add in some speckles of dirt to remind yourself that your faith needs to be planted into good soil, which you can name “goodness” by writing that word into the area of the soil.”)
“and to goodness, KNOWLEDGE;…” (above the soil line, towards the top and middle of your page draw in drops of water which are the rain. Write the word “knowledge” in the side of the rain somewhere. Now that your seed is in good soil, it needs water to help it sprout. Without the rain water, the seed will simply perish.)
“and to knowledge, SELF-CONTROL;…” (this is the roots which spring from the seed. Draw some roots coming out from the bottom of your seed, branching out through the soil. Write the words “self-control”. It is the roots which will hold this life-being stable when things want to knock it over. And things WILL try to knock it over.)
“and to self-control, PERSEVERANCE;…” (with it’s roots in place, the seed now pushes against the forces of gravity and perseveres in its draw to become what it was meant to be. It pushes up, through the soil. Draw in a trunk of a tree from the seed and branches that are reaching up towards the top of your page of paper. Draw in as many branches as you like. Let your tree take shape. Write the word “perseverance” in the trunk of the tree to remind yourself that it is necessary to persevere even when circumstances would want to pull you down into the ground.)
“and to perseverance, GODLINESS;…” (this is the sun. Draw in a sun with its rays shining down on the tree. Write the word “godliness” in the center of your sun. It is really a miracle of nature that the sun creates food for trees to grow. And in the same way, it is a miracle that God works in our life to produce fruit.)
“and to godliness, MUTUAL AFFECTION;…” (these are the leaves of the tree. Draw in leaves all over the tree. At this point I like to draw in a nest in the branches, under the shade of the leaves, reminding myself that affection/kindness creates a place of protection and life for others.)
“and to mutual affection, LOVE.” (and this is the fruit. I usually draw in some apples, making sure to write the word “love”in the middle of my apple. And it is love which is the fruit of our spirits which was written into our DNA from the beginning. And when we nurture our faith with the right ingredients, it is love which holds the seed which will become the next gift of faith….for our friend, for a stranger, for our child, perhaps even for someone we thought was our enemy.)
“For if you posses these qualities in increasing measure, they will keep you from being ineffective and unproductive in your knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. But whoever does no have them is nearsighted and blind, forgetting that they have been cleansed from their past sins.”
I discovered this picture when I was a sophomore in college. I love it because it reminds me of the many factors and conditions needed to be fruitful.
2 Peter isn’t the definitive recipe for fruit. And this little picture isn’t the only way. Some plants need more water/knowledge, some need more sun/godliness, ….I could go on, but I will let this metaphor develop with you on its own.
That second tomato plant which didn’t make it, it’s odd. I thought I planted them both on the same day. But the next evening when I went out to check on them, the second plant was uprooted, laying on the ground, dehydrated and dead.
My first thought was an animal must have uprooted it. But it wasn’t all chewed up, it was just laying there.
My second thought was that my gardener, who mows the lawn, might have thought it was a weed and pulled it out, but then left it lying there once he realized it was a plant.
And now, after a good month of pondering about it, I am questioning myself.
“Did I even plant that plant?” I wonder. “Maybe I didn’t actually plant that one. Maybe I got distracted and left it there on the ground, intending to come back.”
Untended, the seed of our faith, the gift we were given, will not flourish as it was intended, to its full potential.
Here is my picture. What does yours look like?
(FYI….if you want to post a comment, you don’t need to leave your name and email. It asks, but I set up my settings so it’s not necessary. You can just put in name: x, email: firstname.lastname@example.org.)