I’m tired of it. Aren’t you?
I get that we’re all different and we can disagree on things. Boy, can we disagree. I get that we’re all different and that can sometimes be scary to people. And, boy, can we be fearful. Really, really, fearful. I get that we’re all different and we really want our own way. Boy, can we want our own way.
Disagreement ought to be met with discussion and debate, fear of difference should be met with interaction and learning, our own way should be met with a healthy openness to new ideas.
Sigh. Idealistic, I know. But it seems like discussion and debate has turned to mean spirited attacks, name calling and demonizing, factual information is being replaced with uncritical opinion and new ideas are rejected out of hand, if they’re even allowed to be expressed. It seems like we’re at a whole new ugly level of bitterness and recrimination.
Unless you’re lucky enough to avoid the news or social media - especially social media - or you live like a hermit in the wilderness, there’s far too many examples of what I’m talking about. In fact, maybe you’re not just tired of that, you’re tired of people complaining about it.
So here’s a different way to look at it.
In Luke 13:6-9 Jesus tells a parable about a fig tree in a vineyard that wasn’t producing any fruit. The owner of the tree is angry that it hasn’t produced anything for three years so he tells the gardener to cut it down. “Why should it be wasting the soil?” he asks. But the gardener asks him to give it another chance. The gardener will care for it and feed it and if it doesn’t produce, then he’ll cut it down.
It seems pretty obvious what’s happening here. If you want the tree to produce fruit, you can’t just stick in the ground and wait. It needs to be cared for. I’ll “dig around it and put manure on it,” says the gardener. And you know he means the good kind, right? He means the manure that feeds and nurtures with healthy loving, compassion, care, respect and grace. Not the kind of manure we’ve seen people, especially politicians, dumping on each other lately. Sure, you might need to prune the tree, but you do it with care with the goal to be more fruitful, not to be destructive. And if you really want the tree to produce something exciting, you want it to cross-pollinate or you might even splice in a branch from a different tree. And you most certainly want to make sure it gets all the light it can get. You’d never keep it in the dark.
That light, by the way, is the same light we all need to live and thrive. We all grow and bear fruit when we are watered, fed and nurtured in body, mind and soul.
And yet. Here we are, worn down by frustration and anger, surrounded by the darkness of fear and hate, overwhelmed by manure of a different kind. Negativity seems so much easier. Perhaps its results are quicker or maybe we want some kind of guarantee that we’ll get the fruit we want and expect before we invest in all that work, feeding and nurturing it with something positive.
But Jesus’ story doesn’t end with fruit or, for that matter, the tree being turned into firewood. It ends with the gardener asking for another chance. Jesus doesn’t say what happens after that. The story ends with the opportunity, not the result. The expectation of fruit, or lack of it, shouldn’t predetermine our effort to care and nurture the tree. In every moment is the opportunity for new life, for growth and for bearing fruit, and we should seize that moment as Jesus does: with love.