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Tuesday, July 30, 2013

What do your actions really say?

Have you ever stopped to consider the purpose of your life?  According to scripture, our lives are supposed to bear fruit - there is something to be "reproduced" through our lives.  From the moment God told Adam and Eve to be "fruitful and multiply" mankind has been about the work of "bearing fruit" - more than just physical offspring, but fruit of all kinds.  With the labor of his hands, mankind brought forth crops and harvests beyond measure.  With the investment of his time and talent, mankind has ensured the mentoring of the next generation.  Mankind is continually bearing fruit of one kind or another. It probably goes without saying some fruit is not exactly good fruit.  I live in Arizona, so I am used to seeing these "ornamental orange trees" all over the place.  People plant them because they grow well here, produce healthy green leaves and eventually produce the beautiful oranges.  The only problem - their fruit is worthless!  It is so tart you cannot eat it!  It is for looks and not for intake.  It has the appearance of the real, but lacks the quality!

A good tree produces good fruit, and a bad tree produces bad fruit. A good tree can’t produce bad fruit, and a bad tree can’t produce good fruit. So every tree that does not produce good fruit is chopped down and thrown into the fire. Yes, just as you can identify a tree by its fruit, so you can identify people by their actions.  (Matthew 7:17-20 NLT)

In order to be able to evaluate the type of fruit we are producing, we must be able to see the good and bad of "self".  Let this one mull around in your mind a little.  The "good" and "bad" of self is really not something we "judge" very well on our own.  In fact, we need the clarity of the scripture and the conviction of the Holy Spirit to actually "get" this at times.  If we are "getting" something pretty well, it is probably something where we are bearing good fruit.  When we are not so "good" at some things, this is where we need the help of others to actually see what it is we are struggling with.  When I was learning to knit, my grandma actually watched me make my stitches.  When she saw me miss a stitch, she was quick to point it out.  It wasn't because she wanted to find me doing something wrong, but because she wanted me to be producing my best work.  I got distracted easily, so she often had to call my attention back to the work at hand.  All was done in love - but the end product was made more beautiful because she helped me where I had "blind spots" in my work.  We need others who will help us see our "blind spots", don't we?  If we don't have those faithful friends, now is the time to find them!

One thing I have observed about myself is the tendency to not even try something if I feel I won't be good at it.  Sometimes it is my pride which holds me back, at others it is my fear.  Truth be told, I just don't like to fail. One thing is for sure - nothing ventured is nothing gained!  If I want to see fruit in my life, I have to take the first step toward whatever will produce the fruit.  The dropped stitches in my knitting were not all that significant until you saw a few rows of stitching come together - then the dropped stitch stuck out like a sore thumb.  I may not have realized just how much it mattered at the time, but when you step back and take a good look, it really showed up then!  The same is true of the individual failures in our lives - you know, those tiny compromises we make along the way.  At first, you don't see the real issue with the first time, nor the second, but somewhere along the way, you will look back and see a whole lot of "dropped stitches" which really do impact the "whole".  

Each dropped stitch was really a lost opportunity for me.  I lost concentration. At times, I lost interest.  At others, I just lost my way.  In life, we have lots of times when we lose interest - lose focus - or just plain lose our way.  God's hope is that we will learn from our losses!  Here is something I have figured out - so if it speaks to you - learn from my missed opportunities:  WE always play some part in each loss!  We might want to point the finger at someone else, but truth be told, we play some part (big or small) in each loss!  We will continue to repeat our losses unless we examine them, find their causes, understand our part in them, and then do things differently the next time.

Fruitful people are concerned with the fruit produced.  They are directed toward something more than "ornamental" fruit - they want fruit which provides deep satisfaction.  The way to production of this type of fruit is riddled with all kinds of failure - but it is what we do with the failure which matters.  We have limited fruit-bearing capacity outside of the grace of God in our lives.  It was the tender hands of my grandma redirecting my attention, helping me hold the needles just so, and then helping me actually count out loud the stitches we formed which guided me along in my knitting.  It is the tender graces of God in our lives which redirect our attention, helping us to hold onto the things which produce the loveliest of fruit in our lives, and learn the lessons from those "dropped stitches" along the way.  Just sayin!