I love pecans. Until a few years ago, the best pecan producer I have ever encountered grew in my parents’ yard. With the exception of a few rough years, that tree produced a huge crop every year. In fact, I heard rumblings indicating those were the best pecans in town! When the tree’s roots finally grew to the point that they were threatening to destroy my parents’ house, the tree had to come down. It was a sad, sad day for the whole family, but we had no idea the far-reaching effect felling that one tree would have. Apparently, that tree not only grew its own bumper crop, but it also effectively cross-pollinated the other pecan trees in the yard. After it was cut down, none of the other pecan trees produced like they once had.
There is a pecan tree in our yard as well. Each year we see it begin to produce fruit and we are hopeful. But, by the time fall rolls around, nothing is left. None of the nuts reach maturity. Perhaps the neighborhood lacks enough pecan trees for the desperately needed cross-pollination. Maybe the drift from spraying the fields across the highway prevents the tree from bearing fruit. Whatever the case, that pecan tree simply cannot bring fruit to maturity. It tries, but we have seen three autumns without harvest.
Christians are like these trees.
Some believers, when they have reached maturity, produce a huge crop in their season. They grow spiritually, their growth highly visible to all with eyes to see. They disciple, helping others grow and become fruitful themselves. They point the way to Christ. When they finally leave this world, their departure is felt keenly not only by their loved ones but also among the ranks of God’s army left behind.
Other believers resemble the other trees in my parents’ yard. They gladly yield fruit as long as they rest in the shade of their spiritual heroes. When their heroes are gone, however, they struggle. They stand at a crossroads and have a choice to make. Will they step up and fill the gap, determined to continue the work of their heroes? Or, will they wither away, convinced that their growth and effectiveness has ended because their heroes are gone?
Finally, some believers mature as people and bear the mark of Christ, but produce little. They provide care and they work, just as the pecan tree in our yard offers shade and limbs for climbing. They might even begin to bear fruit, putting their heart and energy into seeing new life bud and grow in others, but they tire before seeing that life grow to maturity. If other believers do not pick up where they left off, the fruit never reaches harvest.
My heart desires to be the great pecan tree from my parents’ yard, but all too often I hover between being the other trees in their yard and the unproductive tree in our own yard. What about you? Where do you stand? Today I hunger to be the great, productive tree. Will you join me?