The year was 2011, and the temperature reached over 100 degrees for the 71st consecutive day in north Texas. The air was dry and the heat was stifling, breaking the record in our area for the most days in a year with triple-digit heat.
It was not uncommon to hear of fires breaking out in the rural wooded areas or along the dry grassed-line highways between Houston and Dallas. Leaves turned brown but never dropped to the ground revealing the true struggle of nature trying to hold on.
A year later, a cooler summer brought welcomed rain and relief. But the damage from the year before had taken its toll.
An oak tree in the back yard of a friend was most curious. Half of it was green, flourishing with healthy leaves providing shade and dropping acorns. Birds were on its branches, squirrels scurried about playing and doing whatever it is that squirrels do.
The other half of the tree, however, was a completely different story. The limbs were bare. No leaves or acorns grew. This half of the tree looked dry, sick…maybe even dead.
How strange. It didn’t make any sense. My friend called a tree doctor and was quite surprised at his diagnosis.
“Your tree is actually dead,” he declared.
“How can that be?” I asked when my friend shared the news. “Look at the side that has bright green leaves. It seems to be dancing in the breeze. How can both life and death exist simultaneously on the same tree?”
She told me the tree expert went on to explain how the harsh temperatures from the summer before had stifled the life-blood of the tree. When autumn came and then winter set in, it appeared the tree naturally went into a period of dormancy when very little change takes place. When spring came, the tree, by its natural blueprint, should have started to produce life again. However, the heat of the previous summer had taken its toll, and the root system had died. The majestic tree stopped producing the life-giving nutrients it needed to survive. And what we were actually seeing aboveground in the green half of the tree was the final blush of life—the last vestiges of a great oak tree with just enough life giving sap left over in its veins from the summer before to nourish a portion of itself. Sadly, the roots were dead. No new sap was being produced. And when that sap ran out, the rest of the tree dried up, never to produce again.
This lesson of nature caused me to think. So much happens in the realm underground—in the places we can’t see. Beneath the terra firma is a whole other world. This unseen dominion eventually affects our lives as it manifests itself in our midst. I pondered over the activity that was happening beneath our feet. There was life and death – movement and change. Much of this change would eventually sprout forth and touch our side of the world, bringing with it good fruit, bad fruit, and sometimes the surprising realization of no fruit at all. And while a great deal depends on a healthy root system, it’s really in the seed where all life begins.
Think about an apple seed. How many apples can one seed potentially produce?
One could rightly say that a seed grows a tree that may produce 2000 apples in one year. Each apple could theoretically contain around 10 seeds. So, one harvest from the one seed that produced one tree could yield 20,000 apple seeds each year. You get the picture. A seed is powerful! So much energy packed in a tiny package; a blueprint of life-giving substance.
We know a seed must be planted, die and break open in order to produce a harvest. Out of the death of a seed emerges a new plant. We don’t see it right away, but because we planted a seed and properly watered it, we trust that it will eventually come out of the earth and grow into a fruit-bearing living creation.
From these two examples of my friend’s oak tree that died from lack of water and the producing apple tree that is nurtured, I began to see that life and death can co-exist underground—just waiting to manifest—or not.
As I pondered the magnificent mystery of the seasonal realm underground, I began to realize there is also a spiritual underground that can’t be seen right away. Life and death is also working in tandem in another unseen realm—within our spirits, within our hearts. The supportive life or pending death of marriages, relationships, careers and dreams depend on planting good seeds, nourishing them with life giving water and growing strong roots that sink deep into hearty soil.
In John 12:24, Yeshua said, Yes, indeed! I tell you that unless a grain of wheat that falls to the ground dies, it stays just a grain; but if it dies, it produces a big harvest.” (CJB).
God is a life giver. He gave to man life-producing seed and living water. However, it isn’t until we die to our own selfish nature and allow God’s loving grace and wisdom to grow us into selfless beings that we are able to fully bear the kind of fruit that can make a difference in life.
God’s Word says, “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. And let us not be weary in well doing: for in due season we shall reap, if we faint not. As we have therefore opportunity, let us do good unto all men, especially unto them who are of the household of faith” (Galatians 6:7-10 KJV).
In my journey to discover the Hebraic foundation of my Christian faith, I have often prayed for the strength and wisdom to plant good seeds, water them and be ever mindful of what produces life and what drains the sap from the work that God is doing. I’ve also discovered that seeded in the hearts and minds of all humans is motive—and understanding why we are planting seeds is a critical aspect in bearing healthy fruit—in reaping positive results.
There are times in life when we must examine our motives and carefully inspect the fruits of our efforts. It takes courage to dig up damaged or dead roots and replace them with healthy seeds planted with humility and selflessness. The internal spiritual realm within us must be nurtured with as much care as we devote to our outer existence—a dynamic tension that must be ever-balanced between what it visible and invisible.
I pray that this New Year brings you an abundance of blessings and a bumper crop of fruitfulness as you walk in faith with God as the Gardener of your spirit and soul.