The sect of the church I grew up in talked a lot about “bearing fruit.” The idea is that we are supposed to tend to our hearts and lives in a manner that will cause us to “bear fruit” for the kingdom. This fruit, of course, should be visible to all, whether that be works of righteousness, souls brought to Jesus, or (spiritual or natural) children.
It is fascinating that we, regardless of sect, value tangible progress in kingdom work. For example: if a church is small a minister will often feel like he is doing something wrong. Growth = blessing. If a missionary can’t seem to win a single convert he’/she often feels as though they missed the mark.
Jesus said that Kingdom work is invisible. God’s movements cannot be measured the way we think they can or should. It’s not that God isn’t at work in big movements—he often is—but he’s at work in the small ones, too.
An apple tree cannot suddenly decide it wants to produce bananas. A woman cannot will herself to bear a child. The gifts and callings of God are given according to his will and for his purpose. We may never see the fruit we long to see. And if we do, it may come about in ways we never expected or even imagined possible. But not seeing fruit does not mean fruit does not or will not exist.
I have been thinking about the women of the Bible that God called and blessed. Sarah. Rachel. Hannah. Elizabeth. The world looked at them with pity and even contempt. No matter how hard they prayed or how hard they tried, they were barren—childless.
God ultimately gave each of them the desire of their hearts, in his way, in his time. But we must remember that his blessing was on them before they ever gave birth. He looked at them and loved them and considered them important—in fact, vital—to the story that he was (and still is) writing. Their despair turned into laughter and joy as God made it clear that his eyes had always been on them and that they were part of his plan. Their lives were a testament of God’s patience and his power—the fruit had to be his, in his way, in his time, so that no one could say it was anything else than miraculous.
The reality is, spiritually speaking, God is our gardener. We have no control over the type of fruit—if any—we will produce. We do make choices on whether or not we want to survive the process. We can let our roots go down deep in drought or we can shrivel up and die. But if we want rest for our souls we can submit to the process and let him do what he wants, in his own way, so that all the glory belongs to him.
Tonight I wept as I wrote a song I could not sing (still dealing with illness) a song that reminded me that in God’s story, it is the barren who are blessed.
Be at peace. God is at work in you.