Being a Planting of the Lord
“Beautiful, aren’t they?” my father asks, squatting next to me, lifting a branch of a blueberry bush to get a closer look.
I crouch down on all fours and tilt my head up to see the intricacies of the white, bell shaped flowers. In the center of the bell, I see the small miracle of a blueberry beginning to form. It’s tiny and green, begging for my attention, along with all the nutrients it’s eight-month-old roots can offer.
“How long before they will be ripe?”
My ten-year-old mind is already dreaming of breakfast muffins and saucer-sized pancakes pocked with the juicy deep blue of berries freshly picked. I’ve waited so long. These buds are proof I might not need to wait much longer.
“These bushes still have a while, yet,” my father tells me, pinching a cluster of the white flowers between his thumb and forefinger, twisting them away from the plant, and letting them fall to the ground beneath where they scatter like ashes. “These bushes have more important things to worry about than making berries right now.”
“But they’re blueberry bushes! Isn’t that what they are supposed to do?”
“Eventually, yes,” my father assures me. “But they aren’t quite ready to support all that fruit. Right now, they need to put all their effort into establishing stronger roots. We have to help them remember this.”
He shows me how to pinch off the budding berries. I grab flower after flower until the bush is stripped clean. Its beauty is gone, along with its promise of a summer harvest.
The visible miracle is lost, but the one happening under the surface is just beginning.
If we are, as Isaiah 61:3 says, “oaks of righteousness, a planting of the Lord, that He may be glorified,” aren’t we governed by the sample principles of nature? Don’t we sometimes need to be reminded that producing good fruit requires even better roots?
Our lives appear to be in full bloom to the outside observer who considers all the projects we’ve taken on, encouraged by our desire to produce good fruit. After all, Ephesians 2:10 says we are “created in Christ Jesus for good works.” Leading a Bible study is good. Helping the homeless is good. Starting a business is good.
But what happens when all the “good works” in our lives leave us with no energy for the deep work of cultivating a relationship with the One who gives us strength and nourishment? Our roots are taxed by all we’re trying to grow, and we find that something doesn’t feel quite right. We’re tired and weary. Anxious and frustrated.
We’re doing our best to produce good fruit, but all the activity above the surface is suffocating our roots below. Our focus is divided between what we were created to produce, and the strong foundation needed to produce. Our roots can only support so much.
God is the master gardener, and sometimes He has to remind us to slow down and refocus our energy. His hand might not always seem kind, but we can trust He is always for us, only reminding us of the truth we so easily forget.
He may pluck a project. A job title may fall to the ground. The tiny bud of a business idea may be nipped before it can even bloom.
We mourn the losses, but every bud we lose is an invitation to go deeper. To search harder. To find the nourishment in the dark. With every prayer offered and every praise given, even in the midst of disappointment, we are branching out into the fullness of what is not seen, securing our foundation in Him.
Time may pass slowly. We may feel stunted, unable to grow. Others may blossom and bloom around us. We may feel envious or afraid.
Even so, we must not neglect our roots. God has given us a gift. He has freed our schedules, our hearts, and our minds. He has given us the energy to focus on the one thing that will sustain us when our time comes to bud and bloom and produce fruit of our own.
“Beautiful, aren’t they?” my dad asks, holding up a plump deep blue sphere from the top of a two gallon bucket filled with this year’s harvest. It’s been fifteen years since we denied that blueberry bush it’s first attempt at producing berries. In those years, that plant has seen relentless summer drought and been nearly leveled by the winds of a storm, but its roots run deep and have kept it steady. It has been faithful to produce, with the harvest increasing every year.
Every spring, I see the dainty white blooms appear, full of the promise of good fruit, and they help me remember.
When we’re deeply rooted in Christ, we will produce a harvest.
We may not know the timeline, but we can be certain there is glory in us, waiting to be revealed.