Sunday afternoon I was staring in amazement at the pear trees in a friend’s yard. They’ve been budding recently, and the buds are beginning to open. The new growth will soon be leaves, and not long after that, become tiny white blossoms, but I don’t know the technical name for it’s current stage. Whatever it is, it felt waxy. Each of these buds turned inside-out was still very small. Not a single one was bigger than one of my fingernails. Some of the other trees in this neighborhood have already filled their branches with blossoms. I said a day or so ago that they look like clouds, and I hold to that description. Thousands of tiny little blooms fill their branches. Others around have full leaves, of that very specific new-spring-green hue, and are beginning to sprout the buds for their flowers. So, seeing all the neighboring trees, I knew what these little guys meant. I know their purpose. I know the fruit they will bear.
I go into detail here because I was amazed. I was amazed when I pulled one off to gaze closer (it pricked my heart to do so, promise). It amazed me to consider that the God who created the cosmos with a word of his power, who merely breathed and, lo! the fiery, ever-burning stars were born, that same God has crafted each of these buds. How fierce to roar and place the fire-folk in the heavens and keep the fires raging! How delicately whispered those blooms are! And the same Word breathes life into both. The care he takes astounds me!
Spring is always a beautiful illustration of the sweetness of new life coming from death. Two weeks ago those branches were bare, cold, lifeless. Now they smell like life! That sweet aroma of any new, green growth has filled the air, and I can’t get enough of it. It’s all a miraculous scene. Sometimes I miss out on wonderful truths because I’m deaf and calloused to “Christian-ese” and platitudes and maxims. I roll my eyes at them. I’ve probably rolled my eyes at every spiritual connection I heard drawn between spring and life over the last 10 years. And here I am, making one of my own. I promise I won’t ask you to turn over a new leaf or anything so groan-worthy. All the same, it’s probably totally clichéd. You’ve heard much of it before, and maybe a few eyes will roll. But while I’m gawking, I’m going to share:
Blessed is the man who trusts in the LORD,
whose trust is the LORD.
He is like a tree planted by water,
that sends out its roots by the stream,
and does not fear when heat comes,
for its leaves remain green,
and is not anxious in the year of drought,
for it does not cease to bear fruit.
These verses have been in my thoughts since Saturday. We’re to be like trees, according to the prophet. And where the trees I’ve been watching are just showing signs of fruit to come, we’re to be as mature (or at least maturing) trees. The man who trusts in God and, as it is written in the first psalm, whose delight is the the law of the Lord, this man is a tree by water. He continuously produces fruit. Strife comes (drought, heat), but the leaves do not wither. The health of this tree has nothing to do with how robust it is, but rather how close the water is that brings life. A man may be strong in spirit, but without living water, he will not produce fruit.
Naturally, you say.
But I’m getting at something else here.
Those open buds, those first sign of fruits, are fragile. They are easily ripped off the tree by strong wind or uncaring hands (like my own). They are delicately woven. These are the first of the fruit the tree will bear. I was awed by the care their Maker took in forming them. Think, then, of the care he takes in forming the fruit we, his children, produce. For which of us would claim that our faithfulness and fruitfulness were produced all by our hand? No, not me. Truthfully, I feel a little faint when I try to think of how to do good on my own. Paul wrote to the Ephesians, we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them (2:10). So it seems to me that God carefully prepares my good deeds as he composes those budding flowers, because he has made me, this masterpiece, this poem, this new creation in Christ Jesus. He has not left us to figure out on our own how to be obedient, how to deny our flesh, how to take up our cross and follow. Our dying to self and producing fruit/good works is a daily grace he gives us. Thank you, Jesus!
But before I finish, I’m going to back to those verses from Jeremiah. God has foreordained good works for me, but if I am not continuously being fed, how can I produce those fruits? Being a person, and not merely a creation as that tree out front, I am responsible, too. Responsible to trust (Jeremiah 17:7). Responsible to seek out resources (akin to the water for a tree). Responsible to remain in the Word and in communion with God. Responsible to work out my salvation (Philippians 2:12). Salvation was a gift, but I must cultivate it.
For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast. For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them. (Ephesians 2:8-10)