Pear Tree Parable
When our oldest child was born, we lived in a house in a small town in central Texas. We were only there for a couple of years at most, but my memories of the place are still vivid. She was born six and a half weeks premature and for a season it turned our lives upside down.
After two weeks in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU) she came home on a heart rate and breathing monitor. Many nights we were awakened by the shrill beep of the monitor cutting through the darkness. Most events were false alarms... except for one.
“My heart skipped a beat as I realized that she had stopped breathing.”
One time the alarm sounded and we turned our daughter over to check her. My heart skipped a beat as I realized that she had stopped breathing. Just as we began to initiate the process we had been taught at the hospital, she took a long deep gasp of air and began to breathe again.
It was unsettling and sobering. After that we decided to sleep in shifts. Even though this season of our lives only lasted a couple of months, it felt like much longer. We were exhausted, physically, emotionally, and mentally.
We found ourselves praying for strength and hope. But also felt caught in the confusion so many people encounter when they are faced with hardship.
In the center of our front yard grew a large pear tree. Its’ branches drooping with ripe pears. There were pears lying on the ground everywhere at the base of the tree. When friends came to visit we would gather some pears and send them home with a bag to keep them from going to waste.
On one such occasion I walked to the front yard and noticed that a couple of branches had grown so heavy with pears that they had broken off completely and were lying at the bottom of the tree--pears still attached.
I was struck by the irony of this. The pear tree had become so fruitful that there were branches separated completely from the very thing that nourished them into being.
How my life at that moment felt like those broken branches I was standing over. What we had expected to be a time of celebration was touch and go from day to day. I found myself inadequately prepared for the challenges we had been facing.
In John 15 Jesus instructs his disciples saying that they should abide or remain in Him as branches connected to a vine. He says of His Father--
“He cuts off every branch in me that bears no fruit, while every branch that does bear fruit he prunes so that it will be even more fruitful.” --John 15:2
He prunes us so that we will be even more fruitful.
God was initiating a new era of trust. As we took turns by our daughter’s bedside each night, we would pour out our hearts in conversation with God.
As our prayers grew so did we. Learning how to depend on him in a time of adversity at a depth that neither one of us had ever known before.
It’s a strange paradox that some of the greatest difficulties of my life have borne the most fruit.
It is in these seasons that I tend to pray more faithfully, seek more earnestly and listen more intently to God’s voice.
It is a conundrum to recognize that I do better with adversity than without it. That discomfort often brings clarity and focus into my life. In the face of adversity I do what I am normally unwilling to do--take the necessary risks to participate in a God-sized dream; exchanging my temporal ambitions for God’s transcendent love.
I still live with this paradox on a daily basis. I am walking through another such time in my life right now.
What do we do when our circumstances don’t seem to align with our expectations?
When we are bound by our limitations. When life moves beyond our control.
We surrender to the moment. Thanking God for the ways He will draw us closer. Surrendering allows God to prune our hearts. Cutting away the things that might eventually jeopardize our entire relationship with Him.
God is equally concerned with the source of the fruit as He is with the fruit itself.
Even fruitfulness can cause us to begin to focus on the gift rather than the Giver.
The life of God in us must be constantly fed in order to keep us humbly connected to the source of our fruitfulness.