Anyone who knows anything about apple trees knows this is not the way to get good fruit. That branch sticking straight up from the rest is actually called a "sucker" and should've been pruned off about ...well....about two years ago. I kick myself every time I look out my bedroom window and see it, (among other yard needs!) and feel like such a loser for not taking care of my trees because I do highly value homemade apple pie you see! Today I was struck with the parallel to life and with the sovereignty of God once again....over my sin, to use a straggly little fruit tree and speak wisdom and life into my discouraged heart.
There are so many pressing and important things in life that keep us constantly feeling those "coulda/shoulda/wouldas". So many loved ones we want to fit in, so many aspirations and responsibilities we strive to fulfill that the desires to succeed and the fear of failing, can become like a great big life sucker. Like the branches shooting out the top of my tree, those things are not necessarily bad or evil. In fact, you may see even my suckers are bearing substantial fruit! But those tiny little half ripe apples can also damage the overall health of the tree, tend to make the quantity of fruit lack in quality, and in the long run not produce a healthier tree bearing the most or the best fruit. In my life good things quickly become downright sucky things if I am striving to please men, and not daily seeking God in where I throw my energy and my heart.
"I am the vine, you are the branches; he who abides in Me and I in him, he bears much fruit, for apart from Me you can do nothing." John 15:5
I confess that my own biggest sucker in life is the fear of man. It can quickly crop up from very good motives and look as harmless as a bunch of crisp ripening little apples. But if those little offshoots start to suck the energy from my purpose, making my life top heavy, vulnerable to exhaustion, damage, rot and so forth, it is time to let God prune off the weight and put the perk back in my sagging branches.
"Every branch in Me that does not bear fruit, He takes away; and every branch that bears fruit, He prunes so that it may bear more fruit....
Life in a large family can be very sanctifying for just this reason. When homeschooling seven little ones under age ten, one gives up early on trying to be understood and approved of by others. This can be very very painful when our heart longs to be understood, to not be ridiculed, rebuked or reviled and ultimately just wants to be loved. The temptation is there to people please and avoid the difficult pruning. The truth is, that when we are loving and fearing our mighty God and trusting in His plan for our life and His timing with the fruit we bear, we naturally will bless others. We may not please them, but we will bless them. I've been so encouraged by this humble prayer:
O Jesus! meek and humble of heart...hear me.
From the desire of being esteemed...deliver me, Jesus.
From the desire of being loved...deliver me, Jesus.
From the desire of being extolled...deliver me, Jesus.
From the desire of being honored...deliver me, Jesus.
From the desire of being praised...deliver me, Jesus.
From the desire of being preferred to others...deliver me, Jesus.
From the desire of being consulted...deliver me, Jesus.
From the desire of being approved...deliver me, Jesus.
From the fear of being humiliated...deliver me, Jesus.
From the fear of being despised...deliver me, Jesus.
From the fear of suffering rebukes...deliver me, Jesus.
From the fear of being calumniated...deliver me, Jesus.
From the fear of being forgotten...deliver me, Jesus.
From the fear of being ridiculed...deliver me, Jesus.
From the fear of being wronged...deliver me, Jesus.
From the fear of being suspected...deliver me, Jesus.
That others may be loved more than I...Jesus, grant me the grace to desire it.
That others may be esteemed more than I...Jesus, grant me the grace to desire it.
That in the opinion of the world others may increase and I may decrease...Jesus ,grant me the grace to desire it.
That others may be chosen and I set aside...Jesus, grant me the grace to desire it.
That others may be praised and I unnoticed...Jesus, grant me the grace to desire it.
That others may be preferred to me in everything...Jesus, grant me the grace to desire it.
That others become holier than I, provided that I may become as holy as I should...Jesus, grant me the grace to desire it.
I think that the sentence here that packs the punch for us mothers is the last. We are called to live faithfully in what God has called our families to. I am called to be the wife to one particular man whose name is Brian. So I will do my "wifing" much different than Suzy. And God at this time has blessed me with Gemma, Hannah, Elijah, Silas, Esther, Owen and Juliet. Therefore my mothering will be oh-so-unique to those oh-so-unique little people. When we remember this, we free ourselves from what only discourages and exhausts us anyway. And we end up judging each other a little less harshly and giving them a lot more grace--trusting that they are seeking to fulfill their own holy calling as well.
Ultimately, we are all called to be holy in the eyes of Jesus. The fear of man and the fear of the Lord cannot operate together. It takes great courage to trust God and continue on as we seek to become holy as we should, not...holy as they should, or think we should! And yet that very courage is there for the taking if we simply ask. For our Savior said:
"If you abide in Me, and My words abide in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you. My Father is glorified by this, that you BEAR MUCH FRUIT AND SO PROVE TO BE MY DISCIPLES...These things I have spoken to you so that My JOY may be in you, and that your joy may be made full. This is my commandment, that you love one another, just as I have loved you. John 15:11-12
(This is the kids lip syncing to a little Team Strike Force. Bubs is uncle Matt, Hannah is Auntie Rose, guest appearance is by Darth Taylor (our new cousin/friend), Essie and Juliet are playing the keys, Gemma is doing her own thing and well... that there's Luke Abrams rocking out in the center.)
Bless their little hearts--the poor girlies worked hard baking chocolate chip cookies before they realized the oven still wasn't working and had to freeze them for another day! (Essie!)
After a rough day at the office, Brian gets some relief.
Check mate Eli.
Good try though!!!