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? Â 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 Â 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.