Fruitful in the thorny place...
The afternoon was bathed in sunlight and cheer as I meandered through my friend's delightfully undulating garden-scape until I dipped toward the strangest sight. It was a portugal tree, stripped of its leaves, as if in winter, and covered in thorns. That was not the first observation, however, for its first impression was that of being disproportionately heavy-laden with ripe, delicious fruit. It was the strangest thing I'd seen in a long time.
Of course, I had no intention of letting all of that fruit go to waste, so I inveigled my friend's uncle to help us pick a few choice ones. The problem, however, was the thorns. They were HUGE and protruded menacingly in all directions.
We persevered, and after getting the right tools, we were able to extract some large portugals for our immediate enjoyment.
While helping myself to one or two, I pondered this tree. It was devoid of the appearance of luscious health, as far as leaves were concerned, yet I had never seen a tree more laden with fruit in my life! It made me think of the current economic climate in my country of Trinidad and Tobago and other parts of the world, where things may seem to be approaching barrenness. There are so many people anticipating doom and gloom in times to come, with little local economic growth and so many people having short term employment contracts and also losing their jobs. However, in the midst of these thorns there is always an opportunity to be fruitful. There will always be that minority of persons who manage to be laden with goods and services to offer to the community, in the midst of hardship. Just like in our case, it may take a little work to extract the fruit, but these people will be overflowing with beauty and productivity and hope for their community to enjoy. What makes these people different from the rest?
1. They don't mind loosing a few leaves...
What are we willing to give up in order to really be fruitful? So often we prefer to keep up appearances. We want to look lush and green, often at the expense of being of any real value to others. Are we willing to shed a few leaves if it means that we will be laden with goodness at the end, or do we prefer to "fake it 'til we make it"? Be willing to be humble and pare down the outward so that resources can be directed toward the inward to maximize fruitfulness.
2. They bloom where they're planted...
The tree in question wasn't in the most accessible, central part of the garden, but rather in a low, obscure patch behind several other more attractive plants. Yet the soil under it was dark and nutrient-rich. Isn't that just like life? Often times the best place to grow is in obscurity, behind others who are basking in the limelight. Many times we don't appreciate being there because we feel like noone sees or appreciates us. Yet, in this obscurity we have everything we need to grow and to exceed expectations for fruitful output.
3. They subject themselves to harsh "tools"....
Isn't it true that sometimes God uses sharp and uncomfortable situations to pluck our fruit out of the thorniness of life circumstances? I can't imagine what it must have felt like to be that plant, with us poking and prodding it to extract its produce; yet in the end it must have been satisfied to know that it didn't lose its leaves in vain, or watch its fruit fall meaninglessly to the grown only to shrivel and die without ever being enjoyed. So too, must we be willing to allow God to subject us to the uncomfortable and often unpleasant so that we can be a blessing to others.
A final thought:
"By this my Father is glorified, that you bear much fruit and so prove to be my disciples."