Jesus told this parable:
“A man had a fig tree, planted in his vineyard, and he went to look for fruit on it, but did not find any. So he said to the man who took care of the vineyard, ‘For three years now I’ve been coming to look for fruit on this fig tree and haven’t found any. Cut it down! Why should it use up the soil?’ ‘Sir,’ the man replied, ‘leave it alone for one more year, and I’ll dig around it and fertilize it. If it bears fruit next year, fine! If not, then cut it down'” (Luke 13:6-9).
I may be taking some liberties with this text but I can’t get it out of my head. What struck me most was the “dig around it and fertilize it” part. In order for fruit to grow on a tree, it requires digging up of the stagnant ground and anything in that ground that hinders growth. It also requires the pouring in of those things that help growth, like water and fertilizer. In order for God’s fruit to grow in my life, I have to dig up the places I’ve neglected, avoided, and let dry up. I have to dig out Satan’s lies I’ve allowed to take root and choke me out. And I have to allow God’s living water to refresh me. I have to let His Spirit fill me with truth. I can’t make my own fruit grow, as impatient as I am, but what I can do is of vital importance. I can dig up the past that has so hindered me and I can pour in the Truth and let the Holy Spirit fall fresh on me.
To me, this is reminiscent of Psalm 51:16-17, “You do not delight in sacrifice or I would bring it; you do not take pleasure in burnt offerings. The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit, a broken and contrite heart, O God, you will not despise.” God already provided the ultimate sacrifice through Jesus so He doesn’t want any more burnt offerings or trying to earn salvation. What He does want is a broken and humble heart, open and allowing His love and truth to pour in. We cannot receive from God unless we break up the walls around our heart and the ground we’ve allowed to dry up in us. But we don’t do this difficult work on our own. It’s so interesting to me that the contrite heart in Psalm 51 is noted in my Bible to be the same words in Matthew 11:29 that describe God as “gentle and humble in heart”. It is in this passage that God calls us to come to Him, to rest our souls, and to let Him be yoked to us in order to lighten our load. The process will absolutely require heartbreak, but God offers us comfort in His rest.
For many years I have been like that landowner, waiting for my fruit to grow. And I praise God for allowing me to taste its sweetness here and there. But every time I see the fleshly parts of myself rear their ugly heads, I wonder how much longer I will have to wait for the whole tree to bloom with big, beautiful fruit. The bearing of fruit requires patience, unforced. And a lack of fruit just means that I have more ground to dig up, more truth to realize, more sweet rest to find, and more God to shower into my heart. I pray that God makes me useful by growing His fruit in my life so that I never simply ‘use up’ soil. I am thankful that He walks me through the digging up process as I plow the tough stuff side by side with Him (Matthew 11), and I am thankful that He is responsible for bearing the fruit, pruning me instead of cutting down the whole tree, because I am His. “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 15:5).
With God beside and within me, I continue to dig deep and open to His truth where once were lies, His water where once was dry, and His healing for my broken ground.