“‘Sir, let it alone for one more year, until I dig around it and put manure on it. If it bears fruit next year, well and good; but if not, you can cut it down.’” —Luke 13:8-9
I had this parable in mind for years after we planted an apricot tree in our backyard. We dug it up and moved it to a sunnier location when it didn’t produce fruit after the first three years. Then I gave it three more years after that, all the while carefully watering, fertilizing, and pruning it. After getting only about a dozen fruit from it, I finally conceded that we should cut it down and plant a different tree. Now an apple tree stands in its place, bearing apples (that the squirrels enjoy before we do).
Here Jesus uses a fig tree and a gardener as a metaphor for us and God. We all have the potential to bear good fruit; to find the work we are most suited to which meets a need in the world, to give love in ways that bring new life into the world (and I’m not just talking about making babies), to care for the earth and all of its creatures, human and otherwise. It takes time, fertilizer, and careful tending to grow into these ways of living. This parable reminds us that we can’t afford to wait too long without giving proper attention to our “trees.” The longer we wait to fertilize and cultivate our spiritual lives, the harder it will be to bear fruit, until one day it may be too late.
For reflection: How is your spiritual life growing these days? Is it bearing fruit? What fertilizer are you adding: what are you reading, watching, or listening to that aids in your growth? Who are your teachers who enrich the soil? Is anything toxic being added to the soil which you need to remediate?
To Pray: Gardener God, I want to bear good fruit. Give me the wisdom to know how to nurture the gifts you have given me.