Bearing Fruit

Remember when I had drastically pruned back our grapevines, then moved two of them to line up with our new fence.

Grapevines in line with fence.

Pruned grapevines.

I wondered if I had been to severe with their pruning, but they are growing out beautifully this year.

Grapevines now.

Grapevines now.

I  have continued reading the book, Sailing Between the Stars, by Steven James. Recently, I ran across the following excerpt from his book about our relationship with God. I love Steven James’ take on the whole bearing fruit thing.

“I find it significant that Jesus so often compares the spiritual life to trees, fruit, orchards, and fields. After all, he wasn’t a farmer. He was a carpenter. He knew all about blueprints and building codes and work crews and construction projects, yet he rarely referred to that stuff. He never said anything like, ‘Being close to God is like building a house! You hammer away in the sun and the rain and the wind. It takes dedication and commitment! It takes perseverance and self-control! But you put in your time and your hard work and then, after many days you realize you’re done. You’ve entered the kingdom!

I’d feel a lot more comfortable if the spiritual life were like that, if it depended on hard work and good deeds and regular progress reports. But instead, Jesus talks about bearing fruit (for a sample, read John 15:1-6). And the frustrating thing for me is that vines and trees don’t try to bear fruit. They just do it. They just grow it. Naturally. They can’t help it. It has a lot less to do with their willpower and self-control and sincerity than it does with them being planted in the right environment and nurtured with the right mixture of sunlight and soil and moisture and magic.

In one of his most unusual stories, the one I call the Parable of Poop, Jesus used the example of a tree that wouldn’t produce fruit. ‘Cut it down,’ said the orchard owner. But the gardener begged for one more chance to help the tree grow. I love how the King James Version translates it: ‘And he answering said unto him, Lord, let it alone this year also, till I shall dig about it, and dung it:  And if it bear fruit, well: and if not then after that thou shalt cut it down’ (Luke 13:8-9 KJV).

I love that it says, “I shall dig about it, and dung it.” The modern translations say ‘fertilize it’, which isn’t nearly as literal or remotely as much fun to teach your kids to memorize and then recite to the other children in Sunday school.

… The growth and fruit have more to do with the right amount of digging and dung than effort on the part of the tree. Realizing something like that will really do a number on your spiritual ego. Sometimes I just need to stop trying so hard and let God dig me up and dung me for a while. Maybe I need to pray more prayers like this: ‘God I know I haven’t been producing much fruit lately. Forgive me for that. Please give me another chance. Dung me for a while and see how I do.” (pp. 104-105)

Enjoy your day!

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2 thoughts on “Bearing Fruit

  1. I definitely need to read this. I enjoyed hearing him at Writing for the Soul. You’ve given me another summer read. Thanks.

    • You are welcome! Steven James has a unique way of looking at many of the scriptures that really makes you understand God’s ways better. Kingdom Man, by Tony Evans, is another great guy book. You guys don’t know how much power God gives you, but Pastor Evans spells it out really well.

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