"He will be like a tree firmly planted by streams of water, which yields its fruit in its season..." Psalm 1:3a I opened my Bible to Psalm 1, ready to start my devotions with a time of praise to the Lord. My moments with Him had seemed rushed and a little routine lately, but I knew if I went back to the Psalms, I would find songs of praise.
I really didn't need to read the first psalm. I knew it by heart. Still my eyes devoured the words hungrily, so familiar, so refreshing. I loved the metaphor of the tree firmly planted by streams of water. I wanted my life for Christ to be strong and firm, but I felt like I wasn't seeing many results in my ministry as a church planter in France.
I had recently told my mom on a long-distance call, "What do I do? And yet, what do I not do?"
I cared for my two small sons and my husband, I discipled a new Christian, I held evangelistic get-togethers for women in the community, I offered hospitality to many who came through our doors, I corresponded with 300 financial and prayer supporters, I battled with another culture and language and I felt the burden of responsibility for the fledgling church we worked with. The list seemed endless. Yet where was the fruit, Lord?
Often I found myself crying out to Him in despair, "Give me fruit for Your glory or I shall die." My personality type, which cultivates relationships easily and sees them as of vital importance, combined with my spiritual gifts of evangelism and exhortation gave me a profound longing to produce visible fruit in the lives of others for the Lord. But caring full time for two little boys while laboring in a country which is renowned for its spiritual apathy often left me feeling empty handed. All this work and no fruit to show for it. No juicy reports to write in our quarterly prayer letters. No sweet tasting words from the nationals. Only criticism and skepticism and diapers and runny noses.
My eyes continued down the page in my well-worn Bible: "...like a tree firmly planted by streams of water, which yields its fruit in its season--" Suddenly I stopped in mid sentence. Three little words screamed out at me, begging for attention like my sons do before mealtime. I reread them and reread them, and gradually a smile of real joy came onto my face, erasing the worry lines.
"In its season." Three simple words that I had read hundreds of times before. But today the Spirit whispered to me in a new revelation.
"Elizabeth, the tree bears fruit in its season, the season which is appropriate for that particular type of tree."
Of course, Lord! I could understand that comparison. We had recently moved into a townhouse with a tiny back yard crowded with an apricot tree, a plum tree, raspberry bushes and black currant bushes. It was summer now and we were enjoying the raspberries. The young apricot tree was so
laden with her fruit that all her branches bent to the ground. But the fruit was not yet ripe. And the plum tree did not have any visible sign of fruit. Each tree and bush was producing in its season.
I was ecstatic with the thought. I had often heard about the seasons of a woman's life. I had even spoken on the topic. But now I saw a larger phrase of reference--"the fruit in each season of a woman's life." Ah, yes! This was my season for sowing. Planting seeds of love in my sons' lives, spreading fertilizer on the skeptical terrain of my neighbor's heart, tilling the newly sprouting seeds in my critical Christian friend.
Perhaps as the Lord looked down on my weary tree He saw my branches over laden with apricots which were not quite ripe. Not quite, but soon. In its season. Or perhaps He saw me like the plum tree which right now only offered its branches for shade and swings. No fruit yet, but someday! Someday the fruit would be there, delicious and welcomed.
Each true tree of Christ would indeed produce fruit, again and again, but only in its appointed season. How tempted I had been to look at the masses of fruit produced by missionaries in other countries. If only...I had thought. But God had called my husband and me to France. Mine was a different tree with a different fruit. Nonetheless, it was fruit for Jesus, and it would last.
I left my devotions that day jubilant, carefree, happy. Three simple words, spoken with the depth only God's Word can provide, had lifted my burden and filled me with praise and hope. I laughed to myself from my kitchen window as I watched the boys pull off raspberries from the bushes. Then they headed to the apricot tree, little fingers easily reaching the low draping branches. Quickly I opened the window and yelled out to them, "No, no boys. Don't pick the apricots. They're not ripe yet." Then, before closing the window, I added, "But they will be soon."
Elizabeth Goldsmith Musser, c1992