Heavy Branches

When I was in junior high and a little bit of high school we lived in an old farmhouse that had grown into the middle of town. In the side yard, right outside my window were two old apple trees. And year after year they made apples. I clearly remember lying in bed at night and hearing the apples falling off the tree – not occasionally, but continually. They were just thumping on the ground all through the night. And these trees had been throwing apples on the ground every August for probably 90 years or so. It is something I love about fruit bearing trees and bushes – that God told them to make something, and they do it enthusiastically. They don’t care about what happens to the fruit. They do not measure their efforts, or fuss when no one appreciates it.

Anyways, my mind has been wandering around thinking about fruit a lot lately – a friend had me over to pick blackberries off of their insanely productive blackberry patch, and then we went to an orchard to press cider. These little fruit oriented events got me thinking about the nature of fruitfulness. Just what does being fruitful look like?

If you are like me, probably one of the first things you think of is Psalm 128 “Your wife will be like a fruitful vine within your house; your children will be like olive shoots around your table.”

But the funny thing is that in this verse, the fruitful vine is not bearing children, she is bearing fruit. The children are all off her vine long ago, and are responsible for their own fruit bearing. She is just a heavy laden vine. My mom has always taught that fruitfulness is not equal to bearing children, and here is another example of that. The mere fact of having had children does not mean you are a fruitful person. That would be like the apple trees calling it off after their first year of bearing fruit.

But true fruitfulness requires constant, year round attention. It requires taking risks. Making a truckload of apples to throw in a ditch out in the country somewhere. It is kind of funny to think about, but God does not tell us to necessarily be strategic with our fruit. We do not need to know what will happen to the fruit. Will someone check on it every day, harvest the best to make a pie? Or will there be a junior high kid sweating around among the yellow jackets trying to pick it all up – wishing that we were not quite so bountiful? What happens to all of our fruit is not our problem. That doesn’t mean that we are not to care about the fruit. While it is on our branches, it is our life work. It is an offering to God, and we ought to care intensely about the quality of our fruit. But the branches are our responsibility, the ground is not.

But what does this apply to in real life? Well, think about yourself and about the things you do. Look at it like fruit. Are you holding yourself back on things, afraid that the end result will not be worthy of your labor? Are you afraid to fail? Is there some domestic activity that you would love to know how to do, but don’t want to try in case it doesn’t turn out?  Are you afraid to try new recipes? Are you afraid to put energy or money into something that might turn into nothing? Do you think fondly of some day when you might bear fruit, but resist getting right down to business this year? Do you evaluate the necessity of everything, passing it by if it doesn’t add up to practical? Are you limiting the branches upon which you are willing to bear fruit?

I think that in some ways we have let our cultural admiration for efficiency get into places that it doesn’t belong. Speaking for myself, sometimes I am working away on something and  just cannot shake the question “Why am I doing this? Is this a ridiculous use of my time? Should I be doing something that matters, rather than (say) knitting a costumed mouse?” But it is very freeing to laugh at yourself – laugh when you know that apple you were working on may very well fall to the ground, and who cares? But the chances are good that the more fruit you make the more fruit gets used. The more you throw yourself into heavy branches, the more inviting the fruit, and the more inviting the fruit, the more people it is likely to feed.


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17 thoughts on “Heavy Branches

  1. I had a lesson in the risk-taking aspect of fruit-bearing over the past year.

    After last Christmas, I decided it would be fun to hit the online post-holiday sales and buy a bunch of nativity sets and put the collection on the open shelves that serve as a divider between my dining room and living room.

    And so I did.

    And there they sat for a few months.

    And I couldn’t stand them.

    The colors didn’t work with each other or with the rest of my decor. So I took them down and put up all sorts of items in warm tones that made me quite happy. And there are a couple hundred bucks worth of “gently used” nativity sets waiting for me to get around to eBaying them.

    I was really surprised that I was able to do this without wailing and self-recrimination. The world did not come to a screeching halt because I’d wasted all that money. The universe did not stop in its tracks to heap scorn upon my careless, foolish head. I changed it, and came out on the other side with something that really pleases my eyes. The “waste” was part of the fruitfulness, not a hindrance to it. If I’d left the ugliness, that would have been unfruitful.

    For me, a stumbling block is getting over having grown up poor. And it’s not as if I’m Uncle Scrooge rolling around in piles of money even now. But being paralyzed by fear of being wasteful of limited resources is like burying your one talent in the ground because you don’t have five or ten. Not that we should go to the other extreme of not thinking through how we spend our resources of time or money, or spend more than we’ve got, but God gives us gifts to use, not to sit on.

    I’m sure I’ve got a ways to go still on this journey. This post from your mom got me started. Thanks, Lizzie, for another little nudge along the way!

  2. Shockingly enough, I leave a Femina post convicted, exhorted and inspired. And Valerie, I’m tweeting your quote about waste being part of the fruitfulness as this post is a little too long for Twitter’s limit. 🙂

  3. Dear Rachel, I believe I’ve said this to you before after one of your posts and I want to tell you again as an encouragement: You have your mother’s wisdom and you are using it well. Thank you for dropping some fruit our way. And Valerie, thanks for reminding me of that post, I need it again right now.

  4. This is good!! Rachel, I am telling you, your mind is full of stuff and I love reading it. Thank you!

    I started a business many years ago without thinking too hard about it. It was a success and I loved it. I closed my business when I started having children, again without too much thought. It was just time to be done…for now. Not too long ago, I started another business and though I was afraid of failing, I did it anyway. I did not have this fear last time. But being more laden with responsibility, I was more apprehensive. In hind sight, I realize that often we fear the unknown. We fear ideas. We even fear the burden of fruitfulness itself. We are afraid we can’t handle the work. But as with all of life, God makes it work where He wants to and makes it fail when we need it to.
    This post is a great call to bravery. A bold call for women to role up their sleeves and put forth the effort to work hard, even when this work may fail. Most of all, it is a much needed challenge to learn how to laugh when our hard work gets the boot, or goes un appreciated .
    Thank you for the challenge. I accept! Blessings to you Rachel.

  5. I have never done waiting well, especially when the waiting involves living in palpable uncertainty. Ever since the Fruitfulness post, I have been praying that the Lord would make me fruitful during this time. Focusing on being fruitful has made a big difference in my attitude as we wait.

    My husband had a phone interview today for a job in Seattle after only two weeks of sending out his resume. (Hallelujah!) But the waiting isn’t over as we now wait to see if this will lead to being flown out for another interview, and hopefully, an offer. But Lord willing, I’ll be cranking out fruit no matter what! 🙂

    And Valerie, my daughter is extremely grateful for your story and your reference to the post. She has been asking me for material so she can try and make some clothes all by herself. We’re on a tight budget, so I’ve been wary of waste. However, I now see that I can at the very least go get some material off of the clearance racks and let her have a go at being fruitful, too!

    God bless y’all!

  6. Those are some mighty and many thoughts to ponder. A much better path for my mind to walk than where it was headed this evening. Thanks for the encouragement and the challenge Rachel.

  7. I suppose what I mostly got out of this is that rolling up your sleeves for work that may or may not be worthwhile is better than sitting around waiting for the absolutely right thing to do. Heck, even pulling out my dusty old dulcimer would be better than sitting around reading internet comics.

  8. Thank you for the post. I canned 55 quarts of tomatoes this September and a close friend commented that she doesn’t can because it isn’t cost effective. That statement has been rolling around in my head for weeks…causing me to wonder if all of my time and effort are worth it. At the discount store I can buy large cans of tomatoes for less than I canned my own tomatoes that were purchased from a farm stand. So as far as money goes it may not be worth it. But I enjoy the hard work, and I know my tomatoes are made well…just the way we like them. Your post helped to bolster my conviction that I am glad to be fruitful in this way. P.S. Don’t you love that “can” has three different meanings in this post…I do!

  9. What a brilliant bit of insight, both Rachel’s and Valerie’s. I have never thought of fruitfulness in this way, but it gives me so much to think about in areas where I know I’m not as fruitful as I could be.
    Thank you for this post.

  10. Well, I for one am off to make a horse out of chocolate, to lay on top of my daughter’s birthday cake. I have certainly wondered more than once what I’ve gotten myself into with this bit of work…as I’ve never tried to make any kind of recognizable animal from chocolate before. We’ll see.

  11. This rings true to me in the area of disciplining small children. I imagine that the fruit of discipline is not having to discipline YET AGAIN for the VERY SAME THING in the not too distant future. But that mindset just brings discouragement the next time big brother pushes little brother down. Again. How bout them apples? I guess I’ll just let them lie, and discipline again.

  12. Writing is the one thing that hs always made me feel most fruitful. And I say “feel” fruitful, because I know sometimes I have very little actual fruit to show for the effort. At least to the outside world. But to God I know my two farthings may be more valuable than a whole pile of money. It’s my offering of what He has planted.

    Sometimes I also worry that I’m wasting time, but I believe the beautiful cliche that the Lord made me love the sweat and tears of writing for a reason. So when I’m anxious, that’s also when I pray the most for the Lord to send lots of gift wrapping. I just can’t help wanting to worship Him with my words packaged with a big red bow on top.

    Years ago I began praying for the Lord to give me the courage to bleed (to steal a wonderful phrase from Pastor Joost Nixon), wherever He would send me to bear fruit. And just see if the Lord didn’t open wide the floodgates of blessing! He not only gave me the courage I asked for, but then He also gave me the opportunity to write a book of all things. I know my book may never even be published after these long months stretching into years. But the fruit is all for Him, and I’ve never felt more alive bearing it.

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