Of the twenty-six trees that did put out foliage, twenty-five are progressing well. I readily admit that I had no prior knowledge in this endeavor, and have relied entirely on the advice of others. Neal Denton, Extension Agent at The University of Tennessee Institute of Agriculture and local television personality, has been particularly guided me through the process of nurturing them along.
As the attached pictures show, at first glance, they look a bit comical. But everything has its purpose. The trees were placed in the ground at regular intervals. After one was dug up by vermin, I then placed bricks around them to keep them for protection. In addition, I added tomatoes plant cages to keep browsing from deer to a minimum.
Initially, I watered them every day. After a few weeks, I transitioned to every third day. But later, when the heat of the summer set in and temperatures soared into triple digits, I was advised to place two by four supports across the top of the cages and place five gallon buckets there. By drilling a very small hole in the bottom of each bucket, and then filling each of them with four gallons of water every other day and allowing it to drip down on the plant, the exact amount of water needed was supplied.
As you can see, a lot has gone into my little fruit orchard. Trust me; while it has been a labor of love, it turned into a little more than I originally anticipated. Still, I am encouraged, as I am told that future years will require far less attention than has this initial one. Plus, I am looking forward to many years of rewards with everything from peaches to pears and plums.
There will be apples too; only not as many as I had hoped. You see, that twenty-fifth tree, the one tree in all the thirty that actually died, was my Red Jonathan Apple. And I reminded of it every time I visit my little orchard. For it is situated front and center on the very first row. Its ugly, dried, and swiveled leaves remind me that even though it was given the same amount of careful attention as all its comrades, it still failed to produce.
As I have reflected on this, I have been reminded of the story that Jesus told in the New Testament Gospel of Luke, chapter 13, verses 6-9, commonly referred to as the Parable of the Barren Fig Tree…
“A man had a fig tree that was planted in his vineyard. He went to look for fruit on it, but did not find any. So he said to the keeper of the vineyard, ‘Look, for the past three years I have come to search for fruit on this fig tree and haven’t found any. Therefore cut it down! Why should it use up the soil?’ ‘Sir,’ the man replied, ‘leave it alone again this year, until I dig around it and fertilize it. If it bears fruit next year, fine. But if not, you can cut it down.’”
As heartbroken as I have been over the demise of a single apple tree, it surely cannot compare to how the Lord feels about us when we enjoy his favor, yet fail to flower! In Jesus’ story, the fig tree, though given a position of prominence and allowed to use up the soil, was nevertheless barren! And as such, it pictures far too many individuals.
Let’s face it, the Lord has blessed us in so many ways – with life and talents and skills and untold potential. But what have we done with that favor? Have we lived lives merely of consumption, with little or no production? Have we “used up the soil” without ever bearing fruit? If so, it behooves us to beware. For the owner of the vineyard in Jesus’ story made plain that the clock was ticking on the fruitless fig tree!
It would be given one more opportunity, but if it continued to consume valuable resources without giving back anything back in return, it would lose the owner’s favor and be plucked up and burned in the fire. Another tree would be given an opportunity in its place!
Surely such a story speaks to you and me today! Surely it reminds us to take stock of just what all we have been blessed with. And also to remind us that the same Jesus Who told this story also said: “From everyone who has been given much, much will be required; and from him who has been entrusted with much, even more will be demanded!”
May we bear fruit in our lives just as God desires!