I am allowing our raised garden beds to lie fallow, which is really just a spiritual way to say that my attempt at growing burssel sporuts has failed.
After months of cultivation and waiting, I finally labeled the poor little buds inedible. I was only a wee bit discouraged when I saw the healthy, affordable stalks of brusssels I could buy at Trader Joe’s. The good news is that my failed stalks provided some amazing tenement-style housing for an army of aphids. When even they fled the scene, I knew it was time to call it quits.
Now that the aphid condos are removed, the beds are eerily empty. It is tempting for me to plant something quickly in their place, because I do so want a fruitful garden.
However, fallow beds do not signify an unfruitful garden. On the contrary, fallow beds enable and ensure proper fruit in due season.
In a culture where we can buy strawberries at the grocery store year round, it is easy to believe the lie that there is no off season, no need for rebuilding and replenishing. This physical false notion leads to an erroneous spiritual notion that if my soul is not perpetually, visibly bearing obvious fruit, something is terribly wrong.
But just as strawberries and pears have seasons, souls have seasons.
In the First Psalm, the writer paints a beautiful image of the healthy soul being analgous to tree planted by living waters.
Blessed is the man who walks not in the counsel of the wicked, nor stands in the way of sinners, not sits in the seat of scoffers; but his delight is in the law of the Lord, and on His law he meditates day and night. He is like a tree planted by streams of water that yields its fruit in its season, and its leaf does not whither. In all that he does he propsers. Psalm 1:1-4.
This week as I prayed this verse over my children’s lives, the phrase “yields its fruit in its season” struck and convicted me personally.
My idea of the perpetually prosperous soul tree includes an unrealistic and unbiblical expectation of perpetual fruit bearing. Much like the phantom strawberry plant that produces juicy, fist-sized strawberries winter, spring, summer and fall, I expect a continual crop of measurable fruit in my marriage, parenting, ministry and spiritual walk with God.
Bearing fruit is expected, nay commanded, of all believers. God fully intends to cause crops of righteousness and good deeds to spring up from our lives when we walk with Him, as He himself declared in John 15.
I am the true vine, and my Father is the vinedresser. Every branch in me that does not bear fruit he prunes, that it may bear more fruit…Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit by itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in me. I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me, you can do nothing. John 15:1-2 and 4-5.
That being said, plants bear fruit in due season. What may appear to the naked eye as seasons of unfruitfulness, barrenness and dormancy are not evidence of an unfruitful life, but rather critical stages in a fruitful life. Just as it would be wrong of me to expect my brussels to bear fruit into August, it is dangerous to demand that my life bear the visible fruit that I demand when and how I expect it.
Very often when my soul is in a slump, when training my children seems to be going nowhere, when ministry looks like a barren field, I feel like a failure.
But God does some of His best work in the resting, fallow seasons of our souls. In fallow seasons, the soil rests and is replenished while weeds and dormant seeds are exposed to be rooted out.
As His branches, our only job is to fight to continally abide in Him, to remain vitally attached to the Vine that is Christ. It is He that determines due seasons of fruitfulness. We are do the often hard work of sending roots deeply down into the River of Life. He alone is to decide what that water is to do in our respective lives and the lives of those around us.
To my all those who feel like fallow fields, pruned stumps or stalks of inedible brussels, let the Vinedresser do his work. In due season, you will beaf fruit, so long as you abide; Christ Himself has told us plainly.
You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you that you should go and bear fruit and that your fruit should abide. John 15:16.