plants

Growth in the Spirit -- Fruitful by Michael Nichols

If you've got something good going on, you'll want to make more of it, right? Look at the very screen on which these words are "printed," and you will see a prime example of something good: technology. Digital, mechanical, whatever -- technology is one of the greatest things we have. It makes life simpler, faster, more efficient. We spend less time in the means and more time in the end -- well, I suppose this wouldn't be true for facebook junkies like myself... ANYWAYS.

The point is just that technology has been something that has grown since day one. We've always looked for an easier, more efficient way of doing things, and that's okay. In fact, it's great. Instead of setting aside weeks to travel on foot, the world can be cross in a day. Awesome? I think so. Less wasted time doing the intermediate stuff? Fantastic! Taking airplanes, cars, and bicycles to your destination has caught on with such force. Rarely in our corner of the world do you see horse and buggy travelling interstate distances. Why? Because it made sense to use new technology instead, so they rolled with it. They made more, the demand went up, and both the supply and demand have fed each other ever since.

So when you start growing in your life, what happens? Well, you see the benefit. A new way of life, some kind of change, may give you a new perspective, a different level of appreciation for what you have and what you don't, and whom. No longer are you a dormant seed, but you've sprouted into something different, bigger, changing, branching out, integrating into the world around you, and even shaping it. You provide shade from the sun, security for the ground, and food for wildlife... and you bear fruit.

What is fruit? It's seeds buried in nutrients. Think of an apple. It's meat and core right? And when the seeds finally hit the ground and become buried, once they've received warmth and nourishment, BAM! -- up springs new life where once there was none. Is it not a miracle?

The Bible has numerous passages about the "fruit of the Spirit," list off different things that indicate genuine spiritual growth. "Love, joy, peace, patience," are among these. One of the passages (Galatians 5) also lists "works of the flesh." Why? Because when we're trying to grow spiritually, we are also at war with the impulses of our flesh. One part of us only is sensitive to what we crave, and that's what we call the flesh. When we begin thinking spiritually, though, things start to change. You start to see what come from you rather than only what you want to consume. And why is this so? Because God doesn't want us to hurt ourselves, nor each other. He gave us life, and it wasn't meant to end.

We were made good, and we were commanded to be fruitful and multiply, and I have a feeling that purpose may have been in a spiritual sense, even though His immediate command was more literal. The Scriptures say that God "withholds no good thing from us," so He's not going to hold us back if we're trying to grow. He will be that "river of water" that David talks about in Psalm 1, that feeds us and makes us grow. Sure, along the way, weeds might grow up around us, we might run into rocks, and birds might circle to try to eat us up, all of which happens to ensure that we don't grow.

A lot of times, our growth is hindered. It can be by the environment around us, or the sin nature within us. Regardless of which is true, if stagnancy is propagating, don't be afraid to check your source. See where your water is coming from. Is it clean water, or is it polluted? In today's society, people tend to act as though social, psychological, and behavioral pollution does not exist, but they are just as dangerous and real as polluted water, and we're all victims of it. The question is: when we see it, how can we not do something about it, let alone deny the reality of it?

The great thing is that a lack of growth, nor a difficult circumstance, isn't powerful enough to altogether stop growth from happening, and it definitely cannot stop God from giving you strength to grow more! Remember the parable of the sower? I mentioned it in PROLOGUE. I've been wondering if it ties into another parable, about the wheat and the weeds (see Matthew 13.) In fact, these two parables are in the exact same passage. In short, weeds begin infesting a crop of wheat, and the harvesters want to uproot the weeds so that they don't hinder the growth of the weeds, but the master (hint, hint, Jesus) says not to uproot them so that the wheat is not uprooted with the weeds. The heart of this parable is: He's watching over you.

He's got a plan, and He's not going to let weeds win out over what He's sown in the end. They won't stop your growth, and they won't get in the way of the end result. They may wrap around you, and they may crowd you, and they may even sap strength from the soil that surrounds you, but they cannot stop you because the sower is watching over you, and He is faithful.

Growth in the Spirit -- Roots and Shoots by Michael Nichols

When a seed finally receives enough warmth and water, it can finally start growing, but when it does, it always grows in two directions. It grows shoots and roots. The little stem pops out from the ground, beneath a surface that appears only one-sided.

While we admire the outward beauty and fragility, the leaves absorbing the sunlight and the carbon dioxide in the air, beneath the surface, a whole different world is springing -- or maybe digging would be a better word -- to life. Beneath the surface, from the same seed, have sprouted roots, and even though they remain unseen by the surface world, they serve a purpose much... hehehe... deeper than we know.

Roots are dirty and damp, taking in nutrients from dead plants and wildlife, all through the medium of water. Aside from that water, roots, essentially are mingled in death. Depth and darkness are it's home. You're probably thinking, "Wow, this is getting gloomy." Well, it kind of is. Turn back now if you don't like gloom, but I promise you that something good will come of it.

Roots can be fibrous, branching out every which way beneath the ground. They can be fibrous, one massive root burrowing directly downward to find the best possible source of water. They can be bulbous or tuborous, like a potato or an onion, with tiny roots feeding one massive root-ish thing. How does that relate to spiritual growth? Well, do you learn things by tapping into one main source of wisdom, or do you have a diverse, complex social system from which you attain life? From where do you gain your depth, and what is that depth feeding? Are you a potato, whose depth fosters a centralized depth? Are you taproot that looks for one super deep source of knowledge? Are you fibrous, finding wisdom in the little things, the diverse things, a little bit closer to the surface yet not foreign to the concept of depth?

Taking things a little further, how does this depth show? What do people see? How do you breathe? How do you let the byproducts of your growth out? Eventually, growth will force old things out. Eventually, nutrients and old, damaged, decayed parts go away to be broken down, recycled into the dirt, back into their primary building blocks, yet again to be used as nutrients for new, growing beings. The same goes for us. As our minds expand, old ideas are expelled from our minds, ideas we now see didn't work as well as we initially thought, ideas that weren't built to last, behaviors that could not be maintained.

It's okay if you aren't the most outgoing person, or if the span of your growth doesn't always breach the surface like an oak tree. Maybe you show up more like grass, something small, but nonetheless valuable. People will recognize that, and people who know what growth looks like will be able to see if your growth is being hindered by some external force. Maybe the dirt is eroding beneath you, or maybe you're not seeing enough sunlight. Maybe the brighter side of life hasn't met your eyes as often as would be condusive to your growth, to your thriving in life, and that isn't always up to you. Not always can the plant be blamed for the ground in which it was sown.

In the very end the reason for all of this interaction between different parts of this social-spiritual biosphere we're in is this: grow up, and make more -- or it might be appropriate to say this: "Be fruitful, and multiply." I'm taking that phrase way out of context, but think about it! Jesus compared our spiritual lives so many times to something agricultural, in one specific instance, seeds. Not only He, but David the king, made mention of someone following the paths of righteousness being "like a tree planted by the rivers of water, which brings forth his fruit in his season." So what is this "fruit," and how do we bring it forth?

NEXT: "FRUITFUL"