One of the many blessings of travelling is to see the landscape in its many forms and colors. When did you last REALLY see the landscape? Do you have your mind on something else as the trees and fields go flitting by? Or do you look with intention and thank God for the beautiful world around you. While driving through the fields of Pennsylvania recently, my friend was shocked when I asked him to stop so I could take a photo – he could see nothing in sight except the fields. I ran across the road, dropped to my knees next to a pumpkin and took my photo, much to his amusement. But that moment opened his eyes to appreciate the beauty around him in the details.
There are passages in the Bible that say “you will know them by their fruits. Do you gather grapes off a thorn tree, or figs off thistles? By their fruits you will know them know them, and different kinds of fruit trees can quickly be identified by examining their fruit,” I reflected on this teaching of Christ as I looked at the fields with different crops, corn, soya beans, pumpkin, sunflower and chrysanthemums. They were not planted higgledy-piggledy, but in neat patches and rows, so they were easy to care for and harvest. They all bore a different type of seed or fruit and matured at different times, requiring water, fertilizer and spraying at different stages and they all had different uses.
When it is young corn on the cob is perfect to eat with salt and butter or barbequed. As it gets older it is harvested and sent to the canning factory and packaged by frozen food companies. Later when it is dry, it is harvested for seed or stock-feed or sent to the factories to be ground into cornmeal of different grades, yet it is still all corn. Soya beans and sunflowers go through similar processes, but mainly to extract oil. Chrysanthemums and young sunflowers are sent to florists and shops to sell for gifts and to cheer people with their bright colors. Pumpkins are for food stock-feed and fun as well as seeds for health food.
Why did I take so long to describe the diversity of crops and their uses? Because Jesus also used crops, seeds and trees as metaphors for the Kingdom of Heaven. We were not all created to be carbon copies of each other, but to grow into fullness and bear the fruit of the specific person God created us to be. When you are in alignment with who God created you to be, you will be able to produce the right fruit.
For years I struggled in churches where I had to conform to their ‘standard of thinking and being’, which always seemed at odds with and cut off my creativity, because it did not conform to their ideas of church or ministry. I felt I could never be a ‘good Christian’ by their standards as I did not feel comfortable trying to do their way of evangelism. It took a major shift in mindset to change and break through this black and white thinking that had chained me down and become the person that God had created me to be.
Crops, plants and fruit trees and the fruit they bear are so diverse. We must allow each person to develop the fruit they were designed to bear for God’s specific blue-print for their lives. It is no good forcing a pumpkin to be a cornstalk as it is to force an artist to think in only one color, or a teacher to be an accountant, hairdresser or mechanic, if they are not wired that way. God has gifted His people with many diverse talents and spiritual gifts, it is up to the Body to recognize, encourage and bring to maturity each of God’s children. When this happens everyone one benefits, not only the church, but the community as well as they experience the diversity of God’s love toward them expressed through His people’s various gifts.
One last word on nut trees. I have been fascinated by the development of walnuts on a walnut tree, from the flower tassels, to the big green balls that contain the hard shell of the core of the walnut. The green fiber outer ball must be removed to get to the hard shell which in turn needs to be cracked open to access the nut you can eat. There are some people who are created like that walnut and it takes a lot of time and processing to become all of what God made them to be. This should be a lesson in patience for us with slow growers until their developing and bearing process comes to fruition.