I have always been fascinated with trees. They are so beautiful and majestic. Each country has its own unique trees and Jamaica is no exception.
I was stopped by an impressive tree. It was large and strong, the roots were clearly deep as well as coming out in all directions. There was a smaller plant right beside it, being shadowed by it and growing up healthy and strong beside it. The large tree had beautiful reddish fruit on it, which I soon found out was a “Jamaican apple”.
There are so many things I learn from trees and nature. God challenges me every time with new things. I was given the apple to eat and it was very different to an apple in Australia. It was soft and almost pear/peach like in texture, but it was white and fluffy. As I was enjoying the fruit, I noticed it had a large hard seed in the middle.
Psalm 1 says “but those whose delight is in the Law of the Lord, and who mediates on His Law day and night, that person is like a tree planted by streams of water, which yields its fruit in season.”
Leadership, parenting … these are challenging things. They require much delighting in God’s word and His truth to be able to yield fruit. How I long to yield fruit! As I ate the apple, being such a new experience, I loved the reminder of how nourishing fruit can be and how precious it is to be able to bear fruit for others to enjoy. How important it is that we as leaders and parents actually produce fruit that sustains others, that we focus on how we attract and sustain those we lead, and make sure our fruit is appetising enough that they want to eat it. Which is hard these days, as there are so many other options than a healthy piece of fruit, which are available all the time, not just in season. You know how horrible it can be when you eat fruit that is out of season, and that just can’t compete with the many other sweet and now artificial options that our children and people would much rather eat than healthy and natural fruit.
But this big large seed that I was left with, caught my attention. It was hard and strong and significant. Of course you can’t eat it, so we often throw it away after eating the fruit. Well, at least in the western world we do. So, as I was about to throw it away, I realised that this is such an important part of the fruit. Without the seed, there is not new and sustaining life. The seed needs to be replanted for it to grow.
It is one thing for me as a leader or parent to delight in the Lord so that I may grow and yield fruit, but if that fruit is not then taken, consumed and replanted, its enjoyment and value only lasts for moments. Very quickly we find we want more and more of the light fluffy flesh without understanding the fruit has a seed of replenishing life that is important to be replanted for life to continue.
It made me consider in Western Society how much we love
the “Seedless Watermelon”, a recent human creation to make the fruit easy to consume. When we serve fruit platters we cut out all the seeds so it is all easily consumable and looking ascetically pleasing. I know I love mandarins, (which are small oranges), but I specifically look for the ones with no seeds because the number of seeds in a normal mandarin drives me crazy to eat. Our children today are growing up believing that Watermelons and Mandarins have no seeds. Sure, it is much easier to eat, but what does it say to our children? What does that subconsciously teach us all?
I wonder how many of our churches, our programs, our ministries are like “seedless fruit”? Tasty and attractive, but without seeds that get replanted into the souls and hearts that come, so that they might be able to grow and yield their own fruit? How often are our churches centred around the leader’s spiritual strength, that might come from delighting in the Lord and His word and bearing fruit that is delicious to eat, but by the next week those that came last week are craving for more to sustain them another week?
Francis Chan tells a story of a Mega Church pastor in Seoul. He asked “How can I get my people to leave and live by faith? He explained how he had become really proficient at gathering people together but his intention was to get them to disperse to share the Gospel and live by faith. But now they had grown comfortable and didn't want to leave” (F. Chan, “Letters to the Church”, p 153)
As parents, we can be so meticulous about cutting up bite sizes of fruit and taking out the seeds or much worse feeding them substitutes to healthy fruit all together and not actually giving them the seeds of what they actually need to grow up and bear their own fruit. Please, know that I am not just talking about feeding our kids healthy fruit with seeds here. (Although that is important as well).
Whatever space we are in as leaders or parents, let’s be careful that we are bearing fruit that comes with a seed of truth.
“A farmer went out to sow his seed” Mathew 13:3
A seed of truth that can be replanted and grow independent of us being there. We are called to plant the seed, and God will grow it, but if we are only giving out fluffy, sweet fruit with no seeds, we have missed the point of being planted deeply in God and the blessing that comes with it. This is not about yielding a fruit for ourselves, or unto ourselves, or drawing people towards us. It is so that the seed of truth may not only prosper in us but also spread to the ends of the earth.
I want to see my children grow and become bigger, stronger trees than I can ever be. I long to see those I am called to lead, go and plant their own trees and reproduce over and over again. But it must start with me and the question, “Am I bearing seedless fruit?”
By Tammy Tolman