I've been watching a tree in my newly owned backyard, and have wondered what it was. At first my dad thought it was a pear tree. Spring sprung and it flowered up beautifully leaving me happy in the hope it was at least a fruit tree. Then small little things appeared, and after excitedly telling my co-worker I thought they were apricots, she tamped down my hopes some by warning me it could be a fig tree.
Finally one day I arrived home from work to find a small orange ball splattered on the ground. I did the only thing I could think of since I don't know that I've ever actually seen a fig; I picked up the blob and sniffed it. And instantly knew I had myself an apricot tree.
Since then, I've watched it drop plenty of split, and nasty looking apricots onto the ground and just haven't made time to deal with it. Finally, on this long holiday weekend I thought I might just try to see what I could get.
Unfortunately, it rained most of the day. Finally, in between rain storms I decided to take the chance. So armed with a little plastic tub, a ladder, and an indifference to getting rained on by a tree, I headed outdoors.
I learned a lot while I picked at my fruit tree.
A lot of my apricots were still on the tree, split right across the top. Rather nasty looking. I'd mentioned this problem to others and was told that it was a result of all the rain we'd had lately. The fruit was ripening too fast and so it split. And I found myself praying God, don't let me grow too fast. I want to grow more than anything, but You know how much to teach me and when. You know when I need to simply sit and soak up the available knowledge around me without giving me more. Help me grow, Lord, but at the right pace, at the right time, and help me not be overwhelmed.
The branches of my tree are all rather high, and I needed to use a ladder to be able to reach any apricots. At one point I aimed myself at a branch that leans over my carport and, with one hand to the tree, and the other hand to the carport I climbed to the very top step of the ladder. The fruit on this particular branch seemed to look even nicer than the other branches of fruit. They didn't look split, and I couldn't readily see brown spots or holes so I determined to shake the branch (since I still couldn't reach) and try to make some fall on the roof of the carport where I could snag them my direction with a stick. I especially got rained on by the tree at that point, and certainly jump started my heart a few times as I got a few reminders why the ladder manufacturer doesn't want you to stand on the top step.
Besides praying that I'd be careful, I found myself praying, God, help me to never be afraid to climb as high as I can in You. Even when my steps feel shaky and the rain runs down my arm help me to not just hold on, but to always reach out, as high and as far as I can in order to have the best fruits You have to offer.
After I was finally done climbing around my tree, I started looking at all the apricots that had fallen on the ground during the week. Most looked nasty, but I thought there might be something good in there so I started checking through the ones on the ground. Sure enough, I found several good apricots on the ground. But I also found out something else. I found that sometimes I would spot an apricot and think how good it looked, only to pick it up and discover that the other side was as nasty as could be. And I found myself praying, God help me to see the fruit in my life for what it is. I see the fruit of peace that I strive for, has the blackness of fear to make others upset by speaking the truth. That's not good fruit Father, because where I do not see truth, I will never see true peace. Help me Father, to throw out this bad fruit and to develop the true fruit of peace.
Looking around the ground of my tree though, I discovered often that the very opposite was true of some of my apricots. Some of them, I initially thought were black and not good, turned out only to be dirt marring a perfectly good apricot. It only needed to be washed off and it would be just fine. And I found myself praying, God, help me to be careful in my assessment of fruit. Help me not be too fast to declare something bad, that You have made good. I see a need for this mostly in my assessment of other peoples fruit. So often I confuse simple dirt and bruising for decay and rotting. Help me to never undervalue some of the fruits in other peoples lives, and help me to get close enough to see the difference. And Father, help me to be diligent in cleaning my own fruit, so that if ever a day comes when I can be used to help others to perfect their own, I will be able to do it skillfully and gently.
And then, finally having gathered all the salvageable fruit, I decided I didn't want to leave the nasty ones still littering my yard. So I grabbed another plastic bag and started picking up the bad apricots. And again, I found myself praying, God, help me to always be concerned about the bad fruit lying around in my life. Help me to be constant and vigilant about keeping the my heart clean and free of old and decaying, worthless things. Help me to see bitterness, resentment, fear and pride with the same disgust that I see the black and flies and mold on these fruits that I don't even want to touch. Help me to stubbornly work until every last trace is gone.
Finally done, I put my ladder away, threw away the bag of bad apricots and took the time to make sure I didn't track the mud on my shoes from the experience back into my house. I went in with my fruit and then washed them, dried them, and separated the fully ripe ones from the ones that needed a little more time ripening. The ripe ones I put in the fridge, hoping it would slow their aging, and the ones that needed a little more time I stuck in a paper bag hoping the trick I've heard of so many times -but never tried- was not just a foolish gag. And, this one last time, I found myself praying, God, help me preserve the good fruit in my life. Help me to tend it, and pay attention to it, and not just leave it sitting there unnoticed until it spoils and collects flies. Help me to cultivate the fruits in my life that need a bit more time before they look like anything usable. And help me to diligently use my fruits to the best end possible. Help me to share my fruits, even the ones I might be embarrassed over because of the bruises and scars on them. And help me to use the seeds that can be found in my fruit, to help others bear fruit also.
And Lord, thank You for my apricot tree.