A few days ago I watched a beautiful, gentle talk by award-winning novelist and essayist, Marilynne Robinson. Listening to the great plunging depth of her thoughts and writings was very refreshing!
I noticed how Marilynne Robinson’s notable book, Housekeeping (1980) appeared twenty-four long years before she won the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction in 2005 for her 2004 work, Gilead.
She said she read, and read and read good books in those intervening years.
This got me thinking about fruit-bearing in general, what the Bible has to say on this subject, as well as long-term fruit bearing, as an artist.
Fruit Trees Must Have a Solid Foundation, A Healthy Root System and Plenty of Water
Vegetable Plants, grown from Seeds, can grow to maturity in as little as one month for lettuce, two months for Carrots, and three months for Winter Squash, from the time the seed germinates.
But Fruit Trees differ from vegetable plants. Fruit trees need more time developing before they can bear fruit.
Some fruit tree Seedlings take years from the time of grafting to bear their fruit.
A “Fruit Tree” can be, for example, a variety of Apple, Orange, Pear, Apricot, Persimmon, Fig, Carob Bean, etc., etc.
Fruit Trees also bear many types of Nut varieties, such as Walnut, Pecan, Hazelnut, or Almond trees.
These are facts I found online about the Walnut tree:
“Walnut trees begin producing nuts when they are about 10 years old, but the best nut production begins when trees are 30 yearrs old. Good nut crops occur in about two out of five years.“
How Does This Preparation Factor Relate to People, to an Artist, and to Beauty?
Many non-artistic folks I’ve spoken with tend to think an artist can and should work like “everyone else” – they can just churn out highly creative, culture changing or beautiful things constantly, forty hours a week.
This is usually not true, unless perhaps your idea of “beauty” is a piece of modern minimalist art with a nearly blank canvas, colored simply with just the right shade of “powder blue”.
While Color is, by itself, very powerful in how it can affect anyone or the atmosphere of a room, one-color canvases are pretty easy to paint. They can be churned out all day long by almost anyone, without much applied character, or thoughtful effort.
Personally, impressionistic work is created much faster than something detailed.
This is not to say my impressionistic work has less emotional impact, sometimes it can have even more feeling than more labored pieces, but generally I feel the more detail a piece of art contains, the clearer the painting’s message will be.
From my perspective, great works of moving artistic beauty will mirror or depict things which remind the viewer, reader or listener of God’s holy and whole character. They will ring true in how they reflect and speak about Christ’s Beauty, the Beauty of holiness.
And the character of Christ has many facets, like a cut diamond; or, like a geometric shape which becomes significantly more complicated as more dimensions are added.
Layers, facets, and building depth in a piece of art takes TIME.
The Value of Time, for the Spirit and Soul
While parents may create beauty every day with their words, in how they kindly communicate with their children; and people who craft, build or make things are also in a daily mode of disciplined creation, there are other things of beauty destined to share greatness and power which come less frequently – perhaps even after many years have passed.
Like the years of preparation time behind the creation of some good books, sublime music, large paintings, and stone castles.
The larger a building is to become, the more people it can eventually house, provide for and protect. And the longer it takes to create that building’s foundation.
It’s easy to misjudge people who sit on couches and “just read books” all day long. Are they not wasting their time? I had a bibliophile for a mother, who liked to read books all night long. What she consequently learned and shared with me and others has been invaluable, on many different topics and levels.
And for Marilynne Robinson, now 74, those intervening twenty-four years between her more famous written works were not wasted “doing nothing”. Those years of thought and study were imperative for her spirit and mind to be sufficiently fed, so she could “build her foundation” and produce another book of great value, at the age of 70.
Creation, even when not “from scratch” as God made the world, is all-consuming work. It requires you to consistently lay yourself out spiritually, emotionally and physically. It involves so many decisions and thoughts to be weighed, sifted, edited, clarified.
Imagine all the intricate details and wisdom contained in the world’s Creation!
And, after creating or teaching something of great value, the Word of God teaches us there must be time invested in rest, contemplation and assimilation of life experiences, for another new work to again shine with brilliance.
Nothing of much good comes from hurrying greatness.
An Olive Tree by Rivers of Water – drawing by Elise, circa 2010
The Olive tree represents generational thinking and planning. An olive tree can bear fruit after it is five to twelve years old, but it is said Olive trees produce their best fruit after the tree is eighty years old!
No One is Ever Too Old to Bear Good Fruit
In God’s time table, advancing age is a very good thing, if we are living rightly:
The hoary head [grey hair] is a crown of glory, if it be found in the way of righteousness. ~ Proverbs 16:31
No one is cast aside when they are channels of Living Water! By our Father’s great Grace, sons and daughters of the King of Kings becoming sweeter, deeper, wiser – more able to receive blessings and be a blessing – like aged food or drink:
Those that be planted in the house of the Lord shall flourish in the courts of our God. They shall still bring forth fruit in old age; they shall be fat and flourishing; To shew that the Lord is upright: he is my rock, and there is no unrighteousness in him.~ Psalm 92:13-15
This Hebrew word נוּב “Fruit”, above, is pronounced “nüv” and means, “To sprout, to germinate. (The original idea lies in gushing forth, boiling up; … sometimes to the sense of sprouting, sometimes to that of speaking; also to the sense of rising above, to become high, to raise up, to heap up.) Figuratively applied to the mouth, as if sprouting out words: The mouth of the just bringeth forth wisdom… ~ Proverbs 10:31. To increase, to receive increase: …if riches increase, set not your heart upon them. ~ Psalm 62:10. To cause to germinate, to produce.” ~ quoted from Gesenius’s Lexicon
We should obey the Holy Spirit much more often, in deciding when someone is “too old” to be sent out, have children, take a job, etc. because man’s fears about advancing age don’t usually correlate well with our Father’s plans.
For those with a life-time of gained experience and understanding, their greatest contribution to the world may be still to come! I believe we should look for great things we can share, contribute or collaborate with others at any time in life.
Even people who have been broken and felt torn by the winds of life can teach others and bear good fruit in their old age!
Every “tree” goes through similar storms, yet some take the brunt of the wind’s force, and others will be more sheltered from it. Our world desperately needs the messages of truth which can come from battered, storm-tossed but surviving “fruit trees”.
Moses was called to lead his people out of Egypt at the advanced age of 80.
Sarah and Abraham had their son, Issac, when they were aged 90 and 100, respectively.
I doubt Job or his wife were any Spring Chickens, when they had ten more children!
Anna was over 80 years old, serving God in the temple through her fasting and prayers.
Fruit-Bearing Cycles in Nature
In Nature, trees don’t normally bear huge harvests every year. Apple trees bear a lot of apples every other year. The same with Avacado trees. It was mentioned above, in the quote about Walnut trees. And this is so with most other fruit trees.
This is called “Biennial Bearing” and is observed in fruit trees across the world.
Also, during the year most fruit trees are bearing “much fruit”, this fruitful time is limited to just a short period during that fruitful year.
An apple tree in Vermont’s climate always has a time of dormancy through the winter, when the tree looks almost dead, just after bearing fruit in Autumn. It is tired and resting!
And then, by Spring, new growth appears.
The tree must be pruned, extraneous branches removed so the tree can concentrate it’s efforts once again, in the healthy branches, preparing more fruit that coming year.
A Staggered Harvest
Try to imagine what would happen if all fruit trees bore their fruit at the same time each year. The planet would be inundated with ripe and rotting fruit!
Now imagine what would happen if all people were all bearing their good fruit all at once. There would be no break, no down time for anyone, from the hard work of harvesting and preserving all that fruit!
People who are at the stage of bearing fruit in their lives are usually excited and joyful, if also somewhat tired out. They’ve invested months or years getting to this point. We must celebrate with them.
When the time comes to rest after the harvest, if everyone would be in that same place, how very silent the world would be…no one would be rejoicing in their “harvest” season. It might be a gloomy place. But instead, we have a balance. Some people are in dormant stages, some in leafing stage, some in flowering stage, some in fruiting stage.
It is simply marvelous how our Creator has staggered different harvest times for each different variety and kind of fruit tree!
He has also given every man, woman and child their own special giftings and times for both preparing, growing and finally “harvesting” the fruit of those gifts. Then, too, every man, woman and child need to have quiet times of reflection, rest and “reparations”.
Apple Tree Red, plein air watercolor by Elise, 2015
Our Father on Fruit-Bearing – Trees, Seeds and Vines
- To bear Good Fruit, we are avoid bad influences, and delight in His law of truth – really soak in it, so we may bring forth fruit at a right time for our particular type of “tree”:
Blessed is the man that walketh not in the counsel of the ungodly, nor standeth in the way of sinners, nor sitteth in the seat of the scornful. But his delight is in the law of the Lord; and in his law doth he meditate day and night. And he shall be like a tree planted by the rivers of water, that bringeth forth his fruit in his season; his leaf also shall not wither; and whatsoever he doeth shall prosper. ~ Psalm 1:1-3
- We are to trust and hope in Him, no matter the surrounding trials. Good things should then continue to flow from us, for our roots go into deep waters:
Blessed is the man that trusteth in the Lord, and whose hope the Lord is. For he shall be as a tree planted by the waters, and that spreadeth out her roots by the river, and shall not see when heat cometh, but her leaf shall be green; and shall not be careful in the year of drought, neither shall cease from yielding fruit. ~ Jeremiah 17:7-8
- What we sow matters:
Be not deceived; God is not mocked: for whatsoever a man soweth, that shall he also reap. For he that soweth to his flesh shall of the flesh reap corruption; but he that soweth to the Spirit shall of the Spirit reap life everlasting.
- We can rest, and take many breaks, but we must never give up in what we are called to do by God:
And let us not be weary in well doing: for in due season we shall reap, if we faint not. ~ Galatians 6:9
- What is on the inside is shown by what comes from us on the outside:
Even so every good tree bringeth forth good fruit; but a corrupt tree bringeth forth evil fruit. A good tree cannot bring forth evil fruit, neither can a corrupt tree bring forth good fruit. ~ Matthew 7:17-18
- Much time often passes between when a small seed or seedling is planted until the final joy-filled harvest arrives, but we must have faith that the tearful, hot and difficult work of casting small seeds, watering and pruning them – investing in future growth – is not in vain:
They that sow in tears shall reap in joy. He that goeth forth and weepeth, bearing precious seed, shall doubtless come again with rejoicing, bringing his sheaves with him. ~ Psalm 126:5-6
- We can bear no good fruit at all, unless we are connected to the main Source of Life – in this case, the Vine; but for a fruit tree, an apple would need to be on a twig, on a branch, connected to the trunk’s root system:
Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself, except it abide in the vine; no more can ye, except ye abide in me. I am the vine, ye are the branches: He that abideth in me, and I in him, the same bringeth forth much fruit: for without me ye can do nothing. If a man abide not in me, he is cast forth as a branch, and is withered; and men gather them, and cast them into the fire, and they are burned. If ye abide in me, and my words abide in you, ye shall ask what ye will, and it shall be done unto you. ~ John 15:4-7
- A seed must first die, in order to sprout:
Verily, verily, I say unto you, Except a corn of wheat fall into the ground and die, it abideth alone: but if it die, it bringeth forth much fruit. ~ John 12:24
- We must exhibit “long patience”, not just waiting until the early rain comes, but also for the latter rain:
Be patient therefore, brethren, unto the coming of the Lord. Behold, the husbandman waiteth for the precious fruit of the earth, and hath long patience for it, until he receive the early and latter rain. Be ye also patient; stablish your hearts: for the coming of the Lord draweth nigh. ~ James 5:7-8
- Bearing much fruit brings our Father glory!:
Herein is my Father glorified, that ye bear much fruit; so shall ye be my disciples. ~ John 15:8
- Much communication and communion is involved in fruit-bearing – ask for His help!:
Ye are my friends, if ye do whatsoever I command you. Henceforth I call you not servants; for the servant knoweth not what his lord doeth: but I have called you friends; for all things that I have heard of my Father I have made known unto you. Ye have not chosen me, but I have chosen you, and ordained you, that ye should go and bring forth fruit, and that your fruit should remain: that whatsoever ye shall ask of the Father in my name, he may give it you. These things I command you, that ye love one another. ~ John 15:14-17
Just How Important Is a Fruit-Bearing Tree?
- Fruit trees give life-sustaining meat [food], and were always to be protected when there was a need for wood in a large battle, according to Deuteronomy 20:19-20a:
“When thou shalt besiege a city a long time, in making war against it to take it, thou shalt not destroy the trees thereof by forcing an axe against them: for thou mayest eat of them, and thou shalt not cut them down (for the tree of the field is man’s life) to employ them in the seige: Only the trees which thou knowest that they be not trees for meat, thou shalt destroy and cut them down…”
People were closer to their food sources back then. They had to know by leaf, tree shape and bark whether a fruit tree in a non-fruiting stage was able to bear either Pomegranates, Figs, Olives, Carob Beans, a variety of Nuts, etc.
How do we discern the Fruiting Capacity or Tree Stage of people we meet?
Can we allow people to be in different stages of growth without misjudging or criticising them?
Learning the Importance of Preparation for Fruit-Bearing
Our culture tends to glorify constant busyness. The Industrial Revolution brought in the 9-5 workday, and then we added our modern achievement-driven society to this schedule.
In America, workaholism is praised as “having a good work ethic”.
Some people feel obligated by debt, or parenting children alone, or other legitimate reasons to work three or even four different jobs just to make ends meet.
Yet European countries still take a siesta in the afternoons today.
A bus driver told me a few months ago how in Germany, people hardly ever work more than forty hours each week there. The government actually penalizes it. The people of their country still know how to gather with others, face-to-face, after a work day – to dance, feast and build stronger emotional bonds.
In Europe today, I’m told people invest an average of 1.5 hours a day eating three meals. While folks here in America were found in one study to wolf down those same three meals in a total of ten minutes, and during the 10 minutes, the average American shockingly consumes twice the amount of food Europeans eat in their 1.5 hours of time!
In America many don’t know how to rest just a little bit each day; or how important rest is for an entire day each week; or how to take time to rest for an entire season; or to rest for a whole year of time.
- In Leviticus 25:2-5, every seventh year was to be a rest for the garden soil and gardener:
Speak unto the children of Israel, and say unto them, When ye come into the land which I give you, then shall the land keep a sabbath unto the Lord. Six years thou shalt sow thy field, and six years thou shalt prune thy vineyard, and gather in the fruit thereof; But in the seventh year shall be a sabbath of rest unto the land, a sabbath for the Lord: thou shalt neither sow thy field, nor prune thy vineyard. That which groweth of its own accord of thy harvest thou shalt not reap, neither gather the grapes of thy vine undressed: for it is a year of rest unto the land.
How This Relates to My Life
Recently, after straining my eyes and badly stressing my neck and immobilized body, painting thirty highly-detailed illustrations in four weeks, that sixty-five hours of work did not result in my taking an illustration position I initially had thought I was “born” to take.
|2 x 3-inch illustration sample of a running Cheetah by Elise, May 2018|
And I realized two things – just because you CAN do something, it doesn’t mean you should do it, even when many people around you feel it’s a wonderful opportunity.
For me, it would mean sitting in a chair to produce lots of work at great speed, for an extremely valuable and important project, for the next two years. I felt burdened and heavy about this time commitment. The idea felt more like a jail sentence, not a joy.
I’ve said for the past twenty years “when I’m no longer able to visually paint, ‘Plan B’ is to become a full-time musician.” Plenty of blind musicians play and sing wonderfully. I guess it’s time for me to invest more time in that direction, while continuing to paint more loose pieces en plein air.
Pouring out beauty definitely comes and goes in seasons for me, and it’s okay to take a step back and think on things, as I continue to seek our Father’s will and way for the life He gave me, and which I’ve given back to Him.
“My life” is no longer “mine” to order as I wish, as much as I really sometimes want to serve and do certain things! I must accept the closed doors and look for the open windows!
Give God the Glory He Deserves
Thy people also shall be all righteous: they shall inherit the land for ever, the branch of my planting, the work of my hands, that I may be glorified. A little one shall become a thousand, and a small one a strong nation: I the Lord will hasten it in his time. ~ Isaiah 60:21-22
All this working, all this fruit-bearing, all the potential and present accolades, honor, prestige, money, power, fame and/or beauty that fruitfulness and the use of our gifts bring, can also make us feel pretty empty…unless we are bringing those gifts to the right altar of sacrifice.
My heart wants to be a tree of righteousness which humbly bears good fruit by the outworking of the Holy Ghost, for His Glory. His commendation is all that really matters.
“…that they might be called trees of righteousness, the planting of the Lord, that he might be glorified. And they shall build the old wastes, they shall raise up the former desolations, and they shall repair the waste cities, the desolations of many generations.” ~ Isaiah 61:3b-4
For whom do you bear fruit in your life?
Why do you choose to suffer in your service?
Do you bear fruit for simply for man’s approval and praise, or do you also desire God’s commendation?
Does your labor and work of your hands really show you love God with all your heart, soul, mind and strength?
These are questions I ask myself.
Sine ceres – without wax, I remain, your friend,
Our Creator designed the cycles of beauty we see in Nature with the help of Wisdom:
Doth not wisdom cry? and understanding put forth her voice?
She standeth in the top of high places, by the way in the places of the paths.
She crieth at the gates, at the entry of the city, at the coming in at the doors.
Unto you, O men, I call; and my voice is to the sons of man.
O ye simple, understand wisdom: and, ye fools, be ye of an understanding heart.
Hear; for I will speak of excellent things; and the opening of my lips shall be right things.
For my mouth shall speak truth; and wickedness is an abomination to my lips.
All the words of my mouth are in righteousness; there is nothing froward or perverse in them.
They are all plain to him that understandeth, and right to them that find knowledge.
Receive my instruction, and not silver; and knowledge rather than choice gold.
For wisdom is better than rubies; and all the things that may be desired are not to be compared to it.
I wisdom dwell with prudence, and find out knowledge of witty inventions.
The fear of the Lord is to hate evil: pride, and arrogancy, and the evil way, and the froward mouth, do I hate.
Counsel is mine, and sound wisdom: I am understanding; I have strength.
By me kings reign, and princes decree justice.
By me princes rule, and nobles, even all the judges of the earth.
I love them that love me; and those that seek me early shall find me.
Riches and honour are with me; yea, durable riches and righteousness.
My fruit is better than gold, yea, than fine gold; and my revenue than choice silver.
I lead in the way of righteousness, in the midst of the paths of judgment:
That I may cause those that love me to inherit substance; and I will fill their treasures.
The Lord possessed me in the beginning of his way, before his works of old.
I was set up from everlasting, from the beginning, or ever the earth was.
When there were no depths, I was brought forth; when there were no fountains abounding with water.
Before the mountains were settled, before the hills was I brought forth:
While as yet he had not made the earth, nor the fields, nor the highest part of the dust of the world.
When he prepared the heavens, I was there: when he set a compass upon the face of the depth:
When he established the clouds above: when he strengthened the fountains of the deep:
When he gave to the sea his decree, that the waters should not pass his commandment:
when he appointed the foundations of the earth:
Then I was by him, as one brought up with him: and I was daily his delight, rejoicing always before him;
Rejoicing in the habitable part of his earth; and my delights were with the sons of men.
Now therefore hearken unto me, O ye children: for blessed are they that keep my ways.
Hear instruction, and be wise, and refuse it not.
Blessed is the man that heareth me, watching daily at my gates, waiting at the posts of my doors.
For whoso findeth me findeth life, and shall obtain favour of the Lord.
But he that sinneth against me wrongeth his own soul: all they that hate me love death.
~ Proverbs 8:1-36