By Rev. Dr. Steve Van Ostran
6 Then he told this parable: “A man had a fig tree growing in his vineyard, and he went to look for fruit on it but did not find any. 7 So he said to the man who took care of the vineyard, ‘For three years now I’ve been coming to look for fruit on this fig tree and haven’t found any. Cut it down! Why should it use up the soil?’
8 “‘Sir,’ the man replied, ‘leave it alone for one more year, and I’ll dig around it and fertilize it. 9 If it bears fruit next year, fine! If not, then cut it down.’”
— Luke 13: 6-9 (NIV)
Late spring and early summer is a time when many of us engage in the age-old competition of “Keeping up with the Jones’” around our homes, especially when it comes to our lawns. We want our lawn to be as green and pristine as those around us. We gossip about those lawns that are untended or that are decorated by yellow blemishes of dandelion or the silver of crabgrass. When one of our neighbors’ plants some annuals, we head out to the garden store ourselves.
While, I don’t worry too much about the decorative stuff, I do like to have a nice, clean and green lawn. That takes quite a bit of work during the spring months, especially if you have pets. There are the bare spots that need to be tended to and the right “feeding” for the healthy plants that comprise a good lawn. You also need to see that it receives the right amount of water and attack those dastardly dandelions, thistle and other broadleaf plants that dare to invade the carpet of green. It’s a lot of work and is never done, but just seeing a better lawn than last year’s gives you a sense of accomplishment.
Of course, some people get so frustrated with this that from time to time they execute the nuclear option; they tear out the old lawn and lay down brand new sod!
For many of us, this season to improve the appearance and health of our lawn might also be a time when to look at the appearance and health of our soul. That of course is what Jesus was talking about in the parable of the fig tree, that from time to time our spirit seems to stop bearing fruit. That there is no love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness or self-control (Galatians 5:22-23) in our lives.
But how do we begin this type of process when there are fewer Jones’ to keep up with?
Well, the parable suggests that we begin to dig at the roots and provide the necessary nutrients. To me that means we go back to the basics of our faith, dwelling upon the events of Easter that traditionally start our spring season: the life, works and words of Christ. To read again the Gospels and to allow that reading to lead us to reexamine our life in the context of His teachings of word and deed is always a good starting point. In that examination of our life in the light of God’s word, to discover those places we are missing the mark and to confess our failures and recommit to do it differently is a second action. And to stop comparing our lives to those of the people around us but instead to hold it up to the example of Christ is a final place that will transform our baron souls into the life-giving joyous soul that Christ wants us to have.
Still, like lawn care, while the steps sound simple, the work is hard and not for the faint of heart. But if you want a fruitful, joyous life, it surely is worth the effort!
Prayer: Lord, I want a full and fruitful life for you. I want my life to be marked by your peace, your joy, your patience and self-control. I want to be an example of your love and light in this world. Allow me to dig down into the roots of my soul with you, oh God, and find the nourishment that only comes from your love, grace and understanding. Amen.
Rev. Dr. Steve Van Ostran