Thursday, January 8, 2015

The Spirit Tree

That the fruit of the Spirit is all of the same tree is actually a bit of relief to the one who would be faithful. It means you don't have to worry about figuring out how to nurture love, joy, peace, patience...each on their own; you only have to know how to nurture the Spirit. You only have to plant, grow, protect one tree. You're only responsible for this one thing - to nurture a Spirit tree that produces fruit. 

Of course, as we saw yesterday, you have some obligation to the fruit of that tree, as well, but it all starts with getting fruit to grow.

You start by planting a Spirit seed. The seed of the Spirit is actually your spirit. The Bible reminds us, and science confirms, that it is only by dying that a seed produces life. It is only when you surrender yourself into the fertile soil of God's creation that you make room for the Spirit to grow in your life. The planting of your seed is a commitment to let God do the work of growing, to let His design take its course, to let Him grow what it is He desires to grow in you. So give your spirit to God and make room for His.

Once the seed is planted, it needs water. Psalm 1 tells us that a tree planted near a stream will never be thirsty; it will always have enough to feed its growing appetite. Jesus tells us that He, like a stream, is living water - moving, flowing, carving a new way through the world. Once you have surrendered your spirit, you must give it enough of Jesus to make it grow. You have to keep pouring Jesus into the fertile ground of faith to give the Spirit all that it needs to grow in your life. 

And understand this - that's all you have to do. You only have to provide the water; plants make their own food. The Spirit knows how to feed itself. It turns the Son into the nutrients it needs to thrive. So you provide it the Living Water, and it draws light and heat from the Son, and the rest is the mystical work of God's nature. It's a tree that's beginning to grow. 

As the sapling stretches out of the ground, there may be winds or weather. There may be harsh storms that threaten its tender shoots. You may need to stake it to keep it growing straight and tall. This is where accountability comes in. This is where you search out something to keep you tied to the growing Spirit. Maybe it's a friend. Or a pastor. Or an elder. Maybe it's the guy you talk to at Starbucks every morning. Whoever it is, confide in them about your little tree and ask for their help in cultivating it. Ask for their wisdom in nurturing it. Ask for their accountability in faithfully tending to it. 

You may also find that as this little tree grows, weeds grow up around it, as well. It's one of the sad facts of nature. Whenever anything beautiful is growing, the nutrients of that good plant spread out and fuel the weeds that surround it. You can't just dump a bucket of poison on the ground and trust that to kill it; you will sicken your Spirit tree. Weeds so near the fledgling roots require to be pulled meticulously by hand. Your accountability partner can help. Put on your gloves and make a day of it! (Or more likely, a week or a month or a year or more....) 

Then one day, you'll find something amazing happening: your little Spirit tree will start growing fruit. Little buds of love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control will start to appear. The next season, they'll mature even further. And further still until one day, you find yourself eating of the Spirit and satisfied.

I like to think that one day, when this life is over, maybe God will cut into that Spirit tree. Maybe He'll show you how it's grown. All the rings on the inside will show the years you've nurtured it, some rings fatter than others, some painfully slim, that He's grown of His Spirit around the seed of yours, surrendered into His fertile soil and entrusted to His nature.

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