One of the best things about living in a tropical climate is its fruit.
When visiting a local school recently, I heard the thud of a mango falling from a tree. Within seconds, a stampede of students came racing around the corner, intent on being first to collect this treasure.
Whether it’s watching children joyfully hunt out mangoes, tasting strange new, odd-looking (and often odd-smelling) local fruit, or gazing longingly at the outrageously priced, imported berries in the supermarket, I am sure that God must have had such fun creating fruits.
It’s no wonder, then, that the word ‘fruit’ in the Bible stirs up images of sweet, wonderful things being produced. I yearn for a fruitful life, where I know my purpose and can see God working through me in tangible ways. The problem is that my life doesn’t exactly look like that at the moment. Right now I don’t ‘do’ very much at all.
I departed Australia nearly a year ago, leaving behind all the ministries and friendships that one might see as ‘fruitful’. Now, while I learn how to live in a different country and culture and to speak a different language, I am not involved in formal ministry. It has been very difficult for me to have everything that gives my life productivity disappear.
Have you experienced something like this too? Maybe you felt God guiding you into something new, but still have no idea what that is. Maybe you feel unfulfilled or disappointed. Where is our fruitfulness when our productivity is low, or even nonexistent? The common response is that fruitfulness comes in seasons. This is very true, but perhaps there is another way of looking at it.
As I pored over theological commentaries to explore what biblical authors said about fruit, one thing in particular stood out. Rather than productivity, it was about personal spiritual development—fruitfulness as the development of the kind of person God is designing me to be. Ministry will then flow out of that.
I love images and metaphors. When I stumbled across a story about a tree that produces 40 different kinds of fruit, this overachieving tree made me feel even more disheartened. As I read more, though, the tree became a wonderful metaphor for what God was trying to show me.
Sam Van Aken, who grafts these trees, knows a lot about fruit trees but his career is actually in art. These trees are fruitful in the literal sense of the word. But they are really artworks, Van Aken’s ongoing creation.
In the same way, we are first and foremost God’s artwork. God is the artist and gardener who is designing, pruning, shaping and nourishing us to be filled with variety, beauty and fruitfulness. And we should be encouraged knowing that, as we grow in our own personal fruitfulness, others will enjoy and be nourished by our good fruits.
As this new understanding of fruitfulness seeps into my being, my fear at not knowing what it is I am doing here starts to fade. It’s scary to think you are a dead tree. But I am not a dead tree! I am God’s Tree of 40 Fruit—his art project.
So, continue to grow, whether you are sure of your ministries or not. Whether you are in transition, or dormancy, or blossoming, know that you are being nurtured by the greatest gardener and being transformed into a thing of great beauty.
Join me in holding onto that.
Kylie is learning language in South East Asia. She is passionate about using education to empower young people.