And God said, “Let the earth sprout vegetation, plants yielding seed, and fruit trees bearing fruit in which is their seed, each according to its kind, on the earth.” And it was so. – Genesis 1:11
A few years ago, we bought a camp on some land in Mississippi that we call Rhea Plantation. Technically it’s a pine plantation, but it came with a few fruit trees too. I can hardly wait for springtime each year as I anticipate the budding fruit trees and the appearance of tiny, abundant fruit. At the first hint of spring I begin curiously inspecting the trees, like a child looking at presents under the Christmas tree. I’m not a gardener. I can’t plant anything and keep it alive, despite my best efforts. The fruit trees I enjoy were planted and cultivated by another, years before I even knew they existed. I find myself literally enjoying the fruit of someone else’s labor.
For someone with such a brown thumb, this is quite a blessing.
My favorite fruit bearing plants at the camp are blueberry bushes. At first I thought they were too old and tired to produce. But they prove me wrong each year with an abundance of beautiful whitish-pink flowers that promise an equally abundant harvest of plump, juicy blueberries. It’s surprisingly fun to watch tiny berries form and mature week after week, until they reach a deep blue color, just right for picking.
Don’t get me wrong, these bushes aren’t perfect. They’ve been neglected over the years. They have several dead branches and really need some expert pruning. Still, I am delighted by their colorful fruit that returns year after year.
My least favorite so-called fruit producer is a muscadine vine, which stands right beside the blueberry bushes. At one time, probably many years ago, a vinedresser planted these vines on a carefully crafted trellis. Over the years, the wood rotted and buckled under the weight of the twisted, gangly vine. Each year I hope for a harvest of muscadines, but I am always disappointed.
This year, the barren muscadine vine reached out and grabbed hold of the fruitful blueberry bush. At first it looked like the muscadine vine and the blueberry bush were mingling nicely, working together to produce fruit. But upon further examination I realized the muscadine was not producing a thing. It’s vine was carefully, manipulatively twisting around the blueberry stems, even around the blueberries themselves.
It was as if the muscadine vine could no longer stand a shameful existence next to such a beautiful example of fruitfulness. It seemed to be cruelly reaching out to steal some of the blueberry bush’s glory, and to choke its life out in the process–to break the blueberry bush beneath its weight, like it broke the trellis that was meant to be its shelter and boundary.
I hear Jesus’ words echoing in my mind as I consider these things. He often used visual objects in nature to teach His followers about life. I find that I am no different than they. Simple lessons sometimes are the most profound.
Like the blueberry bush and the muscadine vine, we have been created for a specific, God-given purpose. We can get lazy and ignore our calling, letting others carry our load, potentially destroying their effectiveness. Or, we can do what we’ve been called to do, realizing we cannot attain perfection this side of heaven. There will always be a need for pruning. There will always be parts of us that are dead weight, needing to be cut off and left behind. We must be wary of people who refuse to do what God has called them to do, those who live unproductive lives, jealous of other people. We must be careful not to link arms with people who just want to be like us, instead of just being who God made them to be. This type of relationship will seem good in the beginning but will ultimately choke us under its weight, and cause us to forget who God has called us to be. Anytime we go outside the boundaries of our God-given purpose, we forget who we truly are, rendering us unfruitful.
I don’t have any person or relationship in mind as I write this. I only know that I hear the Master Vinedresser warning and instructing me as I consider blueberries and muscadines.
By this my Father is glorified, that you bear much fruit and so prove to be my disciples. – John 15:8