The Tale of Two Trees

I would be dishonest if I did not say that it is hard to look at the three oldest children and realize how much of their life went by and how much I missed in many aspects. I mean, I was there, but I was not always there; well, I guess what I am trying to say is that I did not always appreciate the time I should of with them when they were little, so self-absorbed and worried about things that I do not remember about today. I just thought there was always tomorrow; unfortunately, tomorrow turned into days, weeks, and eventually, here I am with my oldest daughter at 19, our son 18, and another daughter 14. Mix that in with a life full of self-destruction, and well, I am sure my story sounds like so many others, and you can see where I am going with this. Even with the three little ones (7, 3, and 5 months), the story did not start much different when they were young except for Mila; however, the Lord answered when I called out. My appreciation of my children and the little things I did not take advantage of when I could have now had a different impact on how I appreciate them. When I look at Mila, I always see her as my redemption child. Sounds silly, maybe, but my daughter, as little as she is, only knows me as the dad who loves the Lord. 

I say all this because through all the history and experiences, spending time as a family is vital to me. My appreciation for my wife and my children is a gift and one I cherish very much. Picking apples together at a local farm is one of the events we like to do as a family. Let me note that the older ones used to love this, but not as much as the younger ones do these days. The first time we went, Nano hopped off the hayride with his bag, and we looked down the row at all the trees. They all seemed very similar at first glance; they were big, complete with branches and leaves, and hard to determine their differences. We then began our journey to pick the apples; unfortunately, it became quick to observe these trees were not all the same. 

Once we got underneath the trees, we noticed that many trees had rotten apples. Most of them had fallen off the tree, and the ones on the branches were turning color, had bugs in them, or were soft and starting to rot. When I looked up why this happens, it said it could be caused by a fungus growing within the tree’s trunk; pesticides get on the fruit, pests or disease can affect and cause this. When we walked a few trees over, the tree was bearing good fruit; the apples were whole, healthy, and ready to be picked. My mind was puzzled about something that recently surfaced as the Holy Spirit spoke to me again. From the overall appearance, these trees looked so similar, but it was not until we could get underneath it to see that the fruit it was producing was bad.

I believe the Holy Spirit circulates this experience because it is so personally relatable to me. For so many years in my walk, I was that tree, tree #1, that looked like the rest of them. In reflection, I thought I portrayed the image of walking in the Spirit or bearing its fruit in many ways. Galatians 5:19-21 reminds us “19 Now the works of the flesh are evident, which are: adultery, fornication, uncleanness, lewdness, 20 idolatry, sorcery, hatred, contentions, jealousies, outbursts of wrath, selfish ambitions, dissensions, heresies, 21 envy, murders, drunkenness, revelries, and the like; of which I tell you beforehand, just as I also told you in time past, that those who practice such things will not inherit the kingdom of God.

When I look at those verses, I can see now that I understood the importance of Jesus Christ as the Savior of my life. Truthfully though, allowing Him to have Lordship over many of those areas in my life had not taken place, therefore leaving me planted into many parts of my flesh. Unfortunately, I blindly represented tree #1 for many years without fully realizing it. I understand what the fruit of the Spirit is said to be, how to walk in it, well that was recently revealed much clearer to me. 

Tree #2 is the one that bears good fruit, that is the one that is not infected by pesticides, fungus, disease, etc. Spiritually speaking, it is not grounded in the world and planted in the Lord; in fact, it says in Galatians 5:22-26 “22 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23 gentleness, self-control. Against such, there is no law. 24 And those who are Christ’s have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. 25 If we live in the Spirit, let us also walk in the Spirit. 26 Let us not become conceited, provoking one another, envying one another.

           I have been failing to realize that how to walk in the fruit of the Spirit is already laid out:

Galatians 5:15:I say then: Walk in the Spirit, this is letting us know to walk in step with the Holy Spirit. We should be walking with Him, not according to man or other Christians’ walks but with the Holy Spirit himself. Keep in step with the Holy Spirit.

Galatians 5:18: Be led by the Spirit, allow the Holy Spirit to lead you. Although He will not make your decisions, He will guide you in the path to follow. Follow His lead in that direction and allow His guidance in your life.

Ephesians 5:18:  And do not be drunk with wine, in which is dissipation; but be filled with the Spirit. The scripture informs us that we must be filled by something greater than us. However, if we do not develop good habits of walking with the Spirit and allowing the Spirit to lead us, then the filling of the Holy Spirit will not be able to produce the works in us that it is meant to do.

I enjoyed teaching this lesson on a Thursday night, and I tried to explain it like this. I love teaching our science lesson on density. Density is a characteristic property of an item; this property does not change despite how big or small a piece you have of it. The density will always come out to be the same, and you can identify material from its density.  

I do a lesson where the students must find the density of several objects and determine what it is. To find the density, students will find the mass, divide it by the volume, and get their answer. I give them an old-school triple beam balance to do this on; I like them to work on their math skills and have the experience. With that said, the first thing I do when they walk in is tell them not to touch the scale. I have balanced them to 0 already. Well, I am sure you already know where this is going because, sure enough, when I turn around, there are at least one or two students that touch it harder than it should be, and it unbalances it. The unbalanced scale is not discovered until it comes to completing the task, and the students cannot locate the item on the list because the density is off. So, we clear the balance reset and recalibrate it until it is 0 again.

The fruit of the Spirit are characteristic properties of who I am in Christ. It does not matter if the Lord has me walking in the highs of my walk or is taking me through the deepest of a trial; when I am tested, the characteristic properties should come back displaying the fruit of the Spirit. 

Unfortunately, I do not realize I am unbalanced until it is too late, and I have been tested much like my students. I know I need to be calibrated every day by staying in the word of God; for me, the gospels are my calibration points, and the word of God is a constant centering point. For I know when I am centered on Christ, walking in the Spirit, being led by the Spirit, and filled by the Spirit, comes with a natural flow. However, if I am not firmly planted in Christ, I know how quickly I can become infected and turn back into tree #1. 

So I ask, is your balance centered on Christ or in need of being recalibrated?

Frank D