Posted by: Mad Lamb | 17/12/2013

Fruit from frustration

Still feeling frustrated and useless, I recently began to consider if going to church made any difference. This Sunday my husband was a visiting preacher at a local church and, as he had a bad cough, I decided to drive him there, in case he had a coughing fit on the way. Despite thinking I may just wait in the car, as we have been there a few times this year, I decided to go in. While waiting for the service to begin, I read their notice sheet, which included their motto for 2013: John 15:4-5. I looked up the passage in my Bible and started to read the whole chapter.

One of my frustrations has been not feeling I was bearing fruit. Travelling so far to work meant I was so exhausted I didn’t have time or energy to do little else than to work, eat, sleep and travel to and from work. With this in mind, I noticed one repeating comment: when removed from the vine there would definitely be no fruit.

We sometimes forget that fruit trees can grow very slowly – it is often several years before fruit appears that is rich and abundant. However, the tree still needs watering and tending. Then, when the time is right, fruit will appear. Even then it may be a while before anyone benefits from the fruit. This reminded me of an experience early last month.

On my return journey from work, I occasionally catch a bus from the train station that doesn’t drop me as close to home as my usual one. However, as the stiffness from my arthritis has lessened, it seemed better to catch that and walk a little rather than wait another 15 minutes for the more direct bus. One night last month, when I took the indirect bus, I decided to get off at a different stop. Although it meant walking by a busy road, it seemed a shorter journey. On the walk home I saw what looked like walnuts on the grass verge but could only assume someone had dropped them earlier that day. Later that week, my husband met me at the stop to walk with me and I pointed out the strewn walnuts. He confirmed this was a walnut tree as many walnut shells were still in their husks. As we gathered up a few to take them home, we noticed there was another walnut tree next to this one. My husband loves pickled walnuts and we had to give up a three walnut tree saplings when we moved house last year, so this was a real blessing to find two mature trees so close to home. On the way home, we talked about how my husband could come back for early walnuts next summer, as these are the best for pickling.

As I read the passage again, I read in verse 8 that it is for God’s glory that we bear fruit (paraphrased). Again, this spoke into my feeling of uselessness as anything I tried to focus on seemed to go no-where and there appeared no obvious outlet for gifts I had used previously. In all my indirect questioning of God about where I should focus my efforts to bring about fruit, I could see that these trees bore fruit without any expectation that someone would harvest their offerings. As I continued to read through to verse 11, that the joy is in offering the fruit of my labours to God for His glory, and that, when the time is right, there will be a harvest that will be enjoyed by others. No longer did I feel pointless in all that I attempted to do.

By this time the service was nearly half-way through. I had been engaging with the singing and listening to what was said – but my mind kept returning to this passage. Then the next hymn was announced: Take My Life. This is one of my favourite songs and one I return to at time of dedication. Again I sang, savouring every line, and feeling much more positive about the next year ahead. So I committed myself to opening myself to God more often, through this blog and other mediums. I also decided that reading the words of this hymn and this passage in John would encourage me when I feel low and in dark places. I could also see that by going to church, I allowed God to speak to me though other’s efforts to bear fruit – from the newsletter editor to those who chose and played the hymns.

While I’m sure there will be times of doubt creeping in again, I hope that I take time to share my journey of faith via this blog. I trust that there will come a time when someone will find blessings in these words as I continue to learn that when the reality of life bites, faith bites back.

So, to those who are reading this in December 2013, may I offer many blessings to you over this festive period. For all readers, may your next twelve months bring opportunities to offer your fruit for God’s glory, even it appears they are just lying around in the long grass. Oh, and I confirmed again that going to church regularly is very important.

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