When it comes to Jesus talking about the productivity of our lives, I love that he uses organic imagery. He is the vine. We are the branches. If we remain connected to him in interactive friendship, we will bear a whole lot of fruit. If we live our lives at a conversational distance, we really can’t produce much that matters or lasts. That’s at least how I read John 15.
Realize that Jesus could have used mechanistic metaphors instead of organic ones. They were available to him. He may not have had access to smartphones and automobiles, but there were machines with gears, wheels and millstones and such.
I love organic images because nature takes its time with productivity. You don’t speed up the timeframe by which an apple tree produces apples. The gestation window of each creature is a pretty reliable timeframe. In nature, productivity is unhurried. So it was nice to come across this organic image of productivity the other day:
Be patient, then, brothers and sisters, until the Lord’s coming. See how the farmer waits for the land to yield its valuable crop, patiently waiting for the autumn and spring rains. 8 You too, be patient and stand firm, because the Lord’s coming is near.
James 5:7-8 NIV
Be patient. Patiently wait. That’s the counsel. Patience is that slow virtue of refraining from the temptation to “do something” when God’s invitation is to wait. Waiting is a place of holy lingering.
The farmer understands that patience is required to see the planting, growing, watering process through to a fruitful harvet. But ours is not a patient culture. We usually believe that the only good things are the ones that we can start and finish in short order. The idea of a patient process with much invisibility as the seed germinates and develops is foreign to us.
The physical image of a seed that is watered by grace (the autumn and spring rains) is a parallel to the coming of the Lord. I don’t think the Lord’s coming here is only about a future event. I believe the Lord comes to us in the midst of our lives. I believe God’s favor comes to nurture and bless what has been planted. We actually wait for the coming of undeserved goodness. But we wait with expectance and hope.
I like to use these metaphors of planting, watering and harvesting in my work. Planting are those initiatives, those first steps I take, those first conversations with someone I haven’t yet met. I’m planting.
Watering is tending what I’ve planted. It’s being back in touch with someone I’ve met. It’s praying for people and for projects that matter to me. It is remaining engaged with something I’ve begun.
And then, if I’m patient, there comes those wonderful moments of harvest. Good fruit is borne. Productivity of a deep-rooted quality arrives. (You can read another post, “The Fruits of the Spirit Are Not a To Do List,” which addresses this same theme.)
In what areas of your life do you long for greater fruit than you’ve seen so far? How might you invite God’s Spirit to guide your planting and your watering so that a harvest will eventually come? How might you welcome the grace of God to rain into your life and the lives of those you care about? Patent waiting on a gracious God is never wasted time. Lasting productivity is unhurried.
By the way, I’d love if you took advantage of a resource Unhurried Living recently produced. One that I’m most proud of is our recent online experience called Encountering God in Scripture: Guided Prayers in the Psalms.
It provides a way of praying the scriptures that has been among the most important and fruitful practices in my life and my training of others. It’s a way of encountering God in scripture and not stopping at just studying about God there.
If you click this link now, you’ll get the course at 20% off ($12 instead of $15). It’s about the price of a good book. It’s a multimedia training in praying scripture. Each video is a beautiful way to spend a few minutes in God’s presence as you begin or end your day, or as a break in the midst of your day. (This code will remain in effect, by the way, until the end of Sunday, May 21).