My wife Judy and I were excited to buy a home in Clearwater, Florida, but it came with a barren backyard. After talking it over, we decided to plant a few fruit trees. So I talked to a citrus farmer I had met at church and asked if he could make some recommendations. Jim said, “I’ll do one better than that. I’ll bring you some trees.”
That next Saturday Jim arrived with five fruit trees in the back of his oversized pickup. They were each about three feet tall and had a few branches and leaves on top. He explained that he brought two varieties of orange trees because they produced at a different time each year. When one was done, the other would just begin to produce its fruit. He also brought us a tangerine tree, a lemon tree and a grapefruit tree. “Thanks so much, Jim. I sure didn’t mean for you to do all this. I’ll take good care of them.”
“Yes you will, Rick,” Jim replied. “And I know that because I expect you to do exactly what I tell you to do to take care of them. I suspect you think that all you have to do is plant and water them, but there is much more to it than that.”
He went on to help me plant each tree at just the right depth, but only after we had dug a huge, deep hole for each one, much bigger than the root balls required. Mixing in some special fertilizer in the extra dirt, he filled the large holes and shaped a small berm around each tree so we could water them and the water would not drain off, all the while giving me instructions about watering and fertilizing each tree, including when and how much.
Then Jim looked at me with a somewhat stern look, and said, “Rick, what I am going to tell you next is the most important thing of all to raise these trees so they can produce up to their potential, the way they were designed. Are you with me?”
“I’m listening. What is it?”
“In the spring,” he continued, “when the trees start to bud leaves, keep doing all that I’ve instructed you. But when you see the flower buds, which will turn into fruit, I want you to pinch them off – for the next three years.”
Whoa, I thought to myself. I want the fruit. Even if it is just a few pieces from each tree, that would be great.But while I was objecting in my mind, Jim went on.
“These next three years are crucial for the rest of the life of these trees and their production. For the next three years, I don’t want you to think about the fruit. I want you to think about the roots. These trees will never bear any more fruit than their roots are developed. All the nutrients for the next three years need to go to the roots, not the fruit. If you focus on the fruit before the roots have become well developed, you will diminish the fruit production for the life of the tree. Roots, then fruit, Rick.”
Roots, then fruit. And the same is true of the spiritual life and your spiritual growth.
The roots, the Core of being Humbly Submitted in your heart to God, and being Biblically Formed in your mind, is the key to all other areas of growth in your spiritual life. As this Core grows and is nourished, so goes the rest of your spiritual life.
Focus on the Core, the roots, and the fruit will follow quite naturally in your choices and compassions.
Where is your focus? Are you focused on how much fruit you are producing in your life? Or maybe, how little? Do you feel guilty, ashamed, or maybe proud? Then your focus is on the wrong thing.
Roots, then fruit.
This post was originally posted on thewellcommunity.org.