1.11.2015

crates, fruit, and trees

“We must see that our heart’s loves are ‘disordered,’ out of order. Things we ought to love third or fourth are first in our hearts. God, whom we should love supremely, is someone we may acknowledge but whose favor and presence is not existentially as important to us as prosperity, success, status, love, and pleasure. Unless at the very least we recognize this heart disorder and realize how much is distorts out lives, our prayers will be part of the problem, not an agent of our healing. For example, if we look to our financial prosperity as our main source of safety and confidence in life, then when our wealth is in grave jeopardy, we will cry out to God for help, but our prayers will be little more than ‘worrying in God’s direction.’ When our prayers are finished, we will me more upset and anxious that before. Prayer will not be strengthening. It won’t heal our hearts by reorienting our vision and helping us put things in perspective and bringing us to rest in God as our true security.” –Tim Keller, Prayer

This passage really struck me as I read it this past week. The idea of “worrying in God’s direction” or being more anxious after prayer than before seemed far too familiar, and I had to stop reading in order to really ponder, and pray, about how this applied to my life. After a few minutes, I stuck a little post-it note in the page that read, “Maybe I value effectiveness or results more than I value God Himself. Maybe that’s why I have to surrender over and over, and rarely feel peace after prayer.”

If you read last week’s post (or know me at all…), you know that I can be extremely goal-oriented and result-focused. I was pinned to the wall with this description: “They are the go-getters, the missionaries, the people constantly wanting to do more. Their greatest desire is to see the kingdom of God come to earth, and nothing will stop them from being involved in bringing it. They value accomplishment and achievement, and their greatest fear is living a normal, average life.” God has been revealing slowly but surely these parts of me that place God’s mission on a pedestal equal to or above God. It can be hard to identify because it looks great on the outside. In fact, the outward actions don’t even need to change! It’s a matter of the heart.

One effect of having a results-heavy view of life is that I can get easily discouraged. Satan picks on some people by reminding them of past or present sin, but he mainly picks on me by pointing out the things I haven’t done, the words I didn’t say, or the people who haven’t been saved. And while I’m becoming more and more ready to combat him with the Word of God, these things can still discourage me.

So I was praying about this throughout the week, really trying to pray about it. Trying to figure out where my motivations come from and where I need to give God free reign to change me. Trying to figure out where I was believing a lie, and how it was effecting all the other truths I know.

I prayed about fruit. I’d recently read over passages regarding fruit, about “bearing fruit that will last” and so on. Oh, how I dearly want to see the fruit of these labors, the harvest in this field, to be the reaper rather than the sower sometimes. “Come on, God!” I thought, “I’m ready!” So I prayed. And while I was praying, I imagined this scene, step by step unfolding, into an incredibly meaningful picture. 

There I was, ready for fruit. I was standing, gathering wooden crates of all different sizes in my hands and actively gathering more until my arms, chest, chin, hands, and each finger were completely full of wooden crates to store fruit in! I then managed to take a few steps toward the fruit tree, only to realize that… I couldn’t pick anything. My hands were full of the crates. I had been so focused on getting as much fruit as I possibly could that I’d eliminated the ability to actually pick it. In order to pick the fruit from the tree I’d have to set down the crates, set down my plans and methods and agendas and quotas and standards and expectations.

And suddenly, as I stood there pondering, I realized an even larger error, one so obvious that you’ve no doubt already spotted my fallacy. Of all Scriptures regarding fruit, perhaps the most familiar is Galatians 5, about how “the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace...,” etc. And in my mind, as I dove into this concept again, I discovered that I was the tree. Of course! Just like Jesus talked about, we are the ones who bear fruit!

I hope you can start to see a tiny bit of what I saw from this picture in my mind. I was reminded that first and foremost, God’s concern with be is that I bear fruit, not pick it! And yes, we are to harvest fields as well. But I believe God’s primary, first desire is that I produce fruit, fruit of the Spirit.

Oh, what peace that brings! Suddenly, I realize that the change I have seen God doing in my life, the drastic growth and depth He has caused in my mind and spirit, is fruit just as legitimate as the other, outward goals I’ve been striving for. Not only that, but the fruit is not from me, or from my efforts. It is fruit of the Spirit, completely based on Christ living in me, so that He receives all the glory for every single piece of fruit that appears on my tree. So what do I need to worry about? Nothing! All I do is consent to let God do His work in me. I just trust that He is working. And looking back, even just on the past week, I can see that He is!

I don’t know if I’ve actually dropped the crates yet – I’ve been in this mindset for so long that I’m still identifying the correct and incorrect elements. But I’m beginning to put the crates down, one by one. Which is good, because a tree holding a bunch of crates would look silly anyway. Now I can be a tree that bears fruit, rooted in the Spirit, with all those crates lying on the ground beneath me, where the fruit can ripen and fall into them in the proper time.

So this is yet another step in the direction of God. Of simply loving Him, knowing Him, and wanting Him because of who He is, not what He gives or what I feel. Every step gives me more freedom and more of an understanding of what Jesus meant when He said, “My yoke is easy, and my burden is light.”

Thank You, Father!

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