about fruit

“Many people today talk about ‘legacy,’ as if we can figure out what it is we’ve done — we don’t know. We’re faithful, we obey, we do whatever the Lord tells us, and the fruit may be beyond the horizon.” –Os Guinness, interviewed by Marvin Olasky, World Magazine, 29 June 2013

We always go looking for fruit, don’t we? Some of that is necessary, or we’d never decide to do anything. We decide on doing, usually, because we can imagine certain fruits which make the doing worthwhile, even if that fruit is just the satisfaction of having done something.

Quite often, the results don’t look like what we envision. The tomato plant I’m growing in a pot on my porch is not so wildly fruitful as I had imagined based on the production of previous tomato plants in our garden. New church programs seldom transform the church. My survey course in American Literature did not produce, from a class of half-hearted attendees, forty newly-avid readers. Blogging has yet to launch me into fame.

Still, the pages of scripture are full of promises of fruitfulness.

“He will be like a tree firmly planted by streams of water,
Which yields its fruit in its season,
And its leaf does not wither;
And in whatever he does, he prospers.”

“You will know them by their fruits. Grapes are not gathered from thorn bushes nor figs from thistles, are they? So every good tree bears good fruit, but the rotten tree bears bad fruit.”

“They will still yield fruit in old age;
They shall be full of sap and very green.”

“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.”

The trouble is, we want to define “good fruit,” and, if it doesn’t look like our version of “good,” we tend to think that it isn’t worth the effort. We work, and we pray, and we scour all horizons for the “answer” we have in mind.

When it’s a no-show, we tend to assume there’s been no answer: something went wrong with the wires to Heaven; God didn’t quite understand the request; send it again, write it in larger letters, speak it loudly and slowly, the way you’d speak to non-native English speakers. As if God is deaf or absent-minded, as if the all-seeing eye has a blind spot, as if the Word struggles with our language.

We know, we know, that God hears, but we want to see the fruit of our working and asking immediately, and we want it to look and taste exactly like whatever we had in mind. Most of the time, it doesn’t.

We formulate “if-then” statements, trying to make the fruit appear. If we work harder, if we pray better, if we smile more often, if, if, IF.  And I’m not saying that God doesn’t bless efforts, but I am saying that God is the One who blesses, that He is the One who causes growth.

I can’t make my efforts fruitful any more than I can get inside my tomato plant and hasten its fruit-bearing. But still I plant and still I water, still I work, because God has called me to that.

It may be that we won’t ever see the fruit, this side of glory. It may be that we thought we were watering tomato plants, but God was growing a forest of oak trees. It may be that one day, years from now, we’ll look up with a gasp of amazement: Lord, You let me take part in growing THAT?

We can’t predict, can’t choose our legacy, our fruit. But abiding in Christ we can be faithful, we can be obedient, and we can rest in His promises of fruitfulness.

©2013 by Stacy Nott

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