By Elizabeth Musser @EMusserAuthor
When I was writing The Long Highway Home, one of my very favorite Persian proverbs was this:
Oh, how that proverb made my heart sing, and I found it profoundly true.
In our lives as Christ followers, we long to ‘bear fruit’, by doing the ‘good works’ He’s chosen for us before time to bring Him glory. But sometimes it takes a long time—maybe even a lifetime—to be humble enough to ‘bend ourselves thankfully to the ground.’
Sometimes it takes months or years or decades to get over ourselves and realize to Whom we owe our gratitude.
I recently attended my 40th high school reunion. Since I live out of the country, I don’t have the opportunity to attend many reunions, but I’ve been to a few, enough to have been able to say after this one, “Well, we’ve finally gotten over ourselves. As we approach sixty, we are, for the most part, more self-aware and less out to impress.”
This has been true of my experience in ministry and in writing.
Early on, I tried so very hard to produce fruit.
These were the two things I could do, and I had to prove that I could do them well. For the Lord, of course. I literally wore myself out, trying on my own strength, and failing, until I learned to come humbly before the Lord and trust Him for the results.
So now, when there is fruit, I know, I KNOW, Who to thank, and it isn’t myself. I love that visual of a branch, laden with fruit, hanging toward the ground, so that even the little fingers of children could pluck a piece of the tree’s juicy fruit.
But something that happened in our yard recently forced me to ask this question: Can we at times bear too much fruit?
My husband and I returned to our home outside Lyon, France after having been in the States for over ten months. We had a wonderful young couple renting our home. They kept the house in great shape, and they mowed the yard when necessary, but we didn’t ask them to prune our fruit trees. We figured, with three young children, both the husband and wife had enough to do without worrying about our trees. So we came back to an immaculate house and an overgrown yard.
Last week as I was blithely typing in my little writing chalet, a tool shed that sits in our front yard, I heard a strange noise. I stepped outside the chalet to listen. It sounded like a squirrel or some other animal was frolicking in one of our little apple trees.
But we don’t have squirrels in this part of France. And the only things that tend to frolic are birds and bees. But this noise was of leaves rustling and apples jingling and then a crunch. I walked over to the tree, careful not to step under it. Upon closer inspection, no animal or insect was bothering our dear little tree. She had another problem that was, unfortunately, much worse. One of her biggest branches was breaking off because it was overladen with apples, hundreds of apples on this one branch. Little by little it groaned and gave way, the branch bending ever more towards the ground, although I do not believe the tree felt thankful. She was literally having a limb ripped off because of too much fruit.
We hadn’t been here to prune her back in the right season and she, bless her sweet soul, had just done her job as best she could: producing apples. Now it looked like she had done her job too well. Indeed, my husband sadly had to come and cut off the branch where it was irreparably broken.
I wonder if sometimes, as we strive to serve our Lord, we are in danger of producing too much fruit?
We serve and we give and we bear the burdens of others and we keep on going, ignoring our bodies’ plea for Sabbath rest. We become overworked, but often we tend to ignore self-care which in time leads to broken branches and burn out. We dodge our Master’s pruning shears, avoiding them at all costs.
The bough breaks.
We need the Lord to cut us back and often that involves calling us to slow down. While wearing myself out in ministry and writing, I became very ill. I felt the Lord’s pruning shears as I was forced to rest. But I learned invaluable lessons about life rhythms and seasons and Sabbath.
May we take heed and allow our dear and perfect Gardener to cut us back. May we abide in Him and soak up the perfect rest for our souls that He offers. So we will bend, but not break.
“I am the true vine and My Father is the vinedresser. Every branch in Me that does not bear fruit, He takes away, and every branch that bears fruit, He prunes it, that it may bear more fruit…” John 15: 1-2
About ElizabethELIZABETH MUSSER writes ‘entertainment with a soul’ from her writing chalet—tool shed—outside Lyon, France. Her new novel, The Long Highway Home, has already been a bestseller in Europe and is a finalist for the Carol Awards.
For over twenty-five years, Elizabeth and her husband, Paul, have been involved in missions’ work in Europe with International Teams, now called One Collective. The Mussers have two sons, a daughter-in-law and three grandchildren. Find more about Elizabeth’s novels at www.elizabethmusser.com and on Facebook, Twitter, and her blog.