Tim and I have planted raspberry bushes in three of our prior homes, and we have never lived at any of them long enough to be able to enjoy the fruit. Now we are thinking of planting some berry bushes again, but we don’t want to jinx ourselves because we’d like to stay in this new house more than two minutes.
Gardening endeavors highlight the importance of seasons in our growth and productivity. Some Christian cultures tend to measure spiritual maturity by how much people do. I actually had someone say to me the other day, “When I’m at church, I feel like a shmuck because everyone is doing so much!” But activity is not how Jesus or the Bible talks about spiritual maturity. Instead, Jesus – the man for all seasons – promises to meet us in the drought of summer, the cold of winter, the vibrancy of spring, or the richest harvest of autumn that our lives could ever see. God does not call us to a life of busyness but rather to a life offruitfulness. Paul says the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness and self-control.
I long for my life and for our church to replace the paradigm of busy spirituality with a spirituality of abiding. Abiding means that sometimes we are busy, and sometimes we are still; sometimes we are pushing with all we’ve got, and other times we are just waiting patiently. Each season calls us to something different, and the real measure of maturity is not being busy – but rather the fruit our lives produce. Always, we are doing the steady, quiet work of tending to our hearts by paying attention to the Holy Spirit’s wisdom and conviction, so that God’s character (the fruit of the Spirit) has room to flourish.
In reality, even fruitfulness can be difficult to observe or measure, because just like Tim and I haven’t been able to see or taste the fruit of our gardening efforts, so we often do not get to see or taste the fruit of our spiritual lives. Gardening of all kinds requires not only the discipline of weathering the seasons but also trusting that God will be faithful with the results.