Hello, Ian here. Fiona and I planted a lemon tree two or three years ago. And this year, we discovered we had some fruit, tiny green lemons. The yellow comes later. Gradually they grew a bit more each day, week and month. And then the colour began to change from green to yellow. That took months too.
Recently we picked them. Almost fully yellow lemons. We juiced the first one and it was nice and tart as a good lemon should be.
Productivity and Fruitfulness
We live in a world where achievement is highly recognised and rewarded. From an early age we are encouraged to be better, do better and achieve much in whatever field we choose to follow. It’s very hard for us to get away from wanting to keep up with the joneses. Even in things like our marriages and our children, it is very easy for us to compare ourselves and want to achieve great success in our marriage, the be the best wife or husband and for our kids to be the star student, athlete, and cheerleader. As parents, we can be exhausted simply meeting the demands of all the extra-curricular activities we take our kids to after school and on weekends.
The world and often the church tells us this is the best life. When we’re being highly productive and achieving much whether in secular activities or within the church.
Remember, Jesus invites us to take His ‘easy yoke’, to settle into His ‘unforced rhythms of grace’ (Matthew 11:28-30 MSG). Also, the image of Mary resting at the feet of Jesus as her sister Martha keeps busy preparing the sumptuous meal for the gathering. Jesus invites us to abide, to intentionally choose to hang out with Him, in such a way that we discover how to be conscious of His presence throughout a day.
Jesus is less interested in our productivity as it is all about what we’re doing. On the other hand, He hopes in us choosing to abide with Him and discovering how to do life with that ‘easy yoke’, we will become fruitful. Fruitfulness is all about who we are becoming.
We Become what We Do!
We are creatures of habit and daily rhythms, even if they’re highly structured/planned or completely disorganised. We become what we do. Our soul is being fed all the time by what we behold and what we do. That’s why there are so many books on understanding how habits and the disciplines that consume our day.
Jesus doesn’t ask us to bear fruit. The fruit will come because of sticking with Jesus. This is the crux of the vine/branch analogy of John 15:
“I am the true vine, and my Father is the gardener. He cuts off every branch in me that bears no fruit, while every branch that does bear fruit he prunes so that it will be even more fruitful. You are already clean because of the word I have spoken to you. Remain in me, as I also remain in you. No branch can bear fruit by itself; it must remain in the vine. Neither can you bear fruit unless you remain in me.
“I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing.” (John 15:1-5 NIV UK)
We bear fruit because we abide.
It Takes Time
Lemons take a lot of time before being ready to pick and juice. Bearing fruit takes time too. We’ve got to be prepared to hang out with Jesus. He will feed us with everything we need to bear fruit. Just like the lemons needed to hang on the branch for a couple of years. If they dropped off too quickly, they wouldn’t have grown or become juicy or tart.
Be patient. We will become the ripe lemon only if we continue to stay with Jesus.
Extend grace to yourself. Don’t rush it. It’s not like we can take a pill and suddenly be a great lemon full of juice. Jesus’s way is gentle. That’s the easy yoke. Like the growth of a lemon, it comes from the inside and is reflected in the peace, love, joy, kindness, goodness, patience and self-control we begin to experience. Similarly, our loved ones and others will see the fruit in us too.
I thought I’d leave us with this very apt quote from C.S. Lewis:
“God made us: invented us as a man invents an engine. A car is made to run on petrol [and now diesel and electricity], and it would not run properly on anything else. Now God designed the human machine to run on Himself.”
Grace and peace, dear friends.