One day as I was sitting in the apple orchards for our hour of solitude time (I promise you, it’s less monk-ish than it sounds) God showed me a wonderful life parallel in the apple orchard. The following is what I wrote in my journal that day:
Beside each apple tree is a straight pole, and the tree is tied to it to help it grow straight. Branches that go astray or sideways are pulled in by longer wires, pulling the branches back towards the center. The only way the tree can be strong and tall is if it grows up along the pole. The only way it can bear fruit is if it grows in accordance with that pole and abides by certain “rules.” With these "rules" it is actually most free to live out its purpose in a productive (fruitful) way. If it grew out to the side it would fall under the burden of it’s own weight and be useless.
The pole is unchanging and immobile. In wind, rain, and sun it stays. Even the big trees, ones that have grown taller than the pole, are intimately (in fact more intimately) linked/tied to the pole. The pole is at their center and the tree thrives all around it because it has grown up around it. Yet even when the trees have grown, an occasional branch will stick out and need to be pruned for the benefit of the whole.
So it is with us. We must be centered around our “pole” of Jesus in order to grow and bear fruit. Left to our own devices, without a pole/Jesus, we are unable to be productive or bear the fruit we are meant to bear. We need Him as much when we are young and growing in leaps and bounds in our faith as when we are “older” and “taller.” When we are young in our faith, new to Christianity, new to the idea of growing along a "pole" of Jesus, it may seem “rigid” and the pruning may be drastic in order to stop growing “horizontal” and start growing “vertical.” Early on the destructive “branches” in our lives are often quite apparent and sometimes need to be painfully removed in order that we may progress in our faith. As we grow the pruning is more subtle but equally important. Maybe a parasite is growing on a “branch” deep down inside the nicely pruned exterior. But if not seen or dealt with, the parasites will slowly destroy the tree. As with us, when we are further along in our faith is it he more subtle sins that try to kill us from the inside out and steal out ability to bear fruit.
And with the grown trees, the pole is almost indiscernible from the body of the tree. So it should be with us. That we would grow fully around God, 360 degrees and upwards to the sky, ever seeking the Son, that when people see us our faith permeates our whole being. We can never “outgrow” our need for God.
Seriously? I read that again and think, “Where did that come from?!” I’ll tell ya where- the Holy Spirit. It’s amazing how much God will show us when we just SHUT UP and listen. Oh how comparatively little I listened to God in New York with every manner of distractions to steal my attention and focus. But let me tell you, there aren’t sirens or homeless people yelling or deadlines or sample sales in an apple orchard. And so now I have seen how God can use the simplest of things to teach the most profound of lessons. And indeed, what a sweet sweet lesson.