Quite some time ago, as I was considering a big move with my career, I faced the fear of not being ready for the next step, but also the overwhelming excitement about the possibilities that come with change. I was a fairly new nurse at the time, not really sure of myself on so many accounts. To take a huge step toward a position of leadership was almost one of the scariest things I did. That day, a good friend gave me some advice which has stuck with me on so very many future decisions. I'd like to share that advice with you today. She said, "Green is growing, ripe is rotting." Now, at first, this may not seem like a very "profound" truth, but I have often thought on this, mulling over decisions I have made throughout my career, in my home, with my family, and in all kinds of relationships using this simple "rule of thumb". Keep yourself in a place of being just a little greener than you may like and you won't risk the potential of losing contact with that which will continue to produce life within! I live in a region where citrus grows better than most other fruit. That green orange is on the tree a long, long time before it ever sets its color to resemble an orange. All through that long season of growth, the orange is actually quite green. It isn't that it isn't growing, it is just not "ripening". As soon as it begins to turn its full color, it actually is beginning to "separate" from that which has been giving it the potential for growth - the branch.
It’s certainly possible to say, “Other branches were pruned so that I could be grafted in!” Well and good. But they were pruned because they were deadwood, no longer connected by belief and commitment to the root. The only reason you’re on the tree is because your graft “took” when you believed, and because you’re connected to that belief-nurturing root. So don’t get cocky and strut your branch. Be humbly mindful of the root that keeps you lithe and green. (Romans 11:19-20 MSG)
The orange tree has the ability to produce life in the form of fruit over and over again, not because of its branches, but because of its root. Some of us view fruit as the "end all" - but hear the wisdom of my friend - fruit eventually rots if it is your main focus! The process of seeing fruit grow is a good thing, but just admiring the fruit is not the purpose of the fruit - it is used to further other growth. It isn't until the fruit is actually plucked and eaten that it serves its purpose. Staying on the branch will eventually stunt the growth of any other fruit just beckoning to get out! The fruit God brings in our lives is a matter of growth - sometimes deeper down than we might see on the surface. The growth isn't the end result - it is the use of that growth - putting it into practical use - that is the purpose of the fruit.
Notice what my friend said, "Green is growing." Green signifies a connection with that which produces growth. "Ripe is rotting." Ripe fruit actually begins the process of "separation" - for it is only in separating from the tree that the orange serves to bring its juices and richness of healing power into the lives of the one who will partake of it. Because I live in this citrus region, I also see a whole lot of citrus just laying around on the ground - rotting. You see, it hung around on the tree way too long, eventually falling to the ground. What is the shame is that it stayed on the tree so long - eventually beginning the process of "rotting" right where it hung. Some of us are guilty of allowing the fruit which is born in our lives to just "hang around", almost content just to note we have fruit, but not really recognizing the potential that fruit has if it is actually put to into use in our own lives and those we touch.
Green is growing - maybe not outwardly showing the evidence of fruit at first, but the place where fruit was once attached becomes the place where the next fruit has the potential of growing from, as well. So, "spent" fruit - that which actually gets put into use in our lives - is really making more room for new growth to begin. As the new growth begins to bud in the place of connection, it doesn't seem like much at first. It is small, hard, and kind of bitter at first. Most new growth is just like the tiny "citrus" on the tree - small at first, even bitter to the taste. But...as long as the connection to the tree's life-giving root continues, the potential for the bitterness to develop the sweet juices of mature growth is there.
The tiny green citrus is pretty well-attached to the tree at first. Try to pluck it from its connection and you will have to tug pretty hard to get it loose. Why? It knows it must maintain that connection in order to realize its growth. As the fruit begins to "set" on the tree, the "connection" is not as "tight". Sure, it is connected, but it easier for the fruit to begin to be plucked from the tree, so it might be given in service to the needs of those for which the fruit was produced in the first place! The tree doesn't suffer from the fruit being plucked when it is ripe - it actually begins to "ramp up" to bring forth new fruit in its place!
We might not think much about the fruit God produces in our lives, but when we begin to recognize it is not just so we can have it on "display" in our lives, but so it can begin to "serve" the needs of others, we don't hesitate to put our fruit to use! Anything not put to use is just going to rot! Just sayin!