I recently read a story written by Pat Barrett entitled, “The parable of the peach tree.” It bears repeating:
“In a grove of peach trees, there was a sapling. Whether the sun was shining or the rain was falling, the sapling was happy. Every year during harvest, the farmer who tended the grove would walk from tree to tree with a basket, collecting peaches to share with the town. This year, the little tree was filled with excitement because fruit started to appear on its branches. It said to itself, ‘Now I will be a real peach tree because the farmer will use my fruit.’
As the farmer walked from tree to tree, he came to the sapling. With delight in his eyes, he picked the fruit from its little branches and let the peaches fall to the ground. The little peach tree was sad. ‘What a waste,’ it said. ‘I know what I will do. I will grow my peaches even bigger and then then he will have no choice but to use my fruit.’
A year went by and the Farmer walked through the grove collecting peaches in his basket. Again, with delight in his eyes, he picked the fruit from the young tree and let the peaches fall to the ground. Filled with anger, the little tree said ‘I know what I will do. Next harvest I will demand that he place my peaches in the basket to be taken to the town. And if he doesn’t, I will refuse to let him pick the fruit from my branches.’
Another year went by and the farmer walked through the grove until he came to the little peach tree. The little tree said to him ‘Every year, I see you pick the peaches from the other trees in the grove and place them in your basket, but you let mine fall to the ground. Not this year! If you will not place my fruit in your basket, then I will not let you take the fruit from my branches.’ With sadness in his eyes, the farmer did as the tree wished and left the fruit. That night a storm came. The wind howled and the rain poured. The next morning, the little tree woke up and was filled with sorrow. The peaches it refused to the farmer had grown too heavy for its young branches. As the storm raged its branches snapped and both its fruit and branches fell to the ground.”
To fully grasp the meaning of this parable, you need to understand a few things about fruit trees. Even in their youth, fruit trees were made to blossom. It’s part of their season. Spring blossoms are fragrant and serve as a reminder of the promises yet to come. You see, these trees were made to bear fruit and multiply! What young trees don’t understand, is that their instinct to bear fruit does not imply they have yet the capability to carry the weight of the fruit. If you’ll remember from previous posts, fruit bearing plants (strawberry plants and fruit trees) can only focus on one things at a time – growing fruit or growing themselves. In the end, a more fruitful tree is one that has been pruned to allow for sturdier branches and a deep root system. Strength and depth will ensure they can carry the fruit while withstanding harsh and unpredictable weather patterns.
Not too long ago, my friend Allie watched this parable come to life in her neighborhood. Some novice gardeners had planted a peach tree on the corner of their lot. They allowed the buds to become peaches and, to bystanders, they looked incredible. My friend’s joy eventually turned to concern as she helplessly watched these peaches grow. Eventually, their weight took its toll on the tree’s narrow branches. One morning, Allie drove by to see that the heavy peaches had broken the branches during the night leaving the tree shattered. Over the next few days, these new gardeners tried to graft the branches back to the trunk but it was no use. The damage had been done. They uprooted the tree and gave up.
I cannot tell you how many times I have felt resentment in the pruning process. In my 20’s, I remember being overlooked for a church position. My mind came up with endless reasons why they didn’t want me. It didn’t help that the person they promoted was less qualified! I was incredibly angry and hurt. It made no sense at the time but, years later, I would learn the harsh reality the promotion took on this individual. Their life crumbled under the weight and expectation of the position while they juggled their new family, home, and career. Eventually, they lost it all. After hearing this tragic tale, God invited me back into my interpretation of these events. I could hear His gentle voice speaking to me, “It wasn’t your time. You weren’t ready. I hid you and shielded you. My child, I rescued you!” Needless to say, God’s healing washed over these old wounds as my tears flowed. The pain I had carried, turned to gratitude.
Just pause to think for a moment. In order for a peach tree to be more fruitful, the tree must focus on its own growth rather than its production. It needs to mature. It’s not selfish. It’s necessary! I love the way Parker Palmer shares insight into this as he talks about the need to care for our souls: “Self-care is never a selfish act – it is simply good stewardship of the only gift I have, the gift I was put on earth to offer others. Anytime we can listen to our ‘true self’ and give the care it requires, we do it not only for ourselves, but for the many others whose lives we touch.”
Make no mistake, you were designed to be fruitful, but to carry it requires growth and maturity. What would it look like if you laid down your demand to produce and started tending to your heart? And to those who have been convinced that self-care is selfish – what would it look like if you stopped apologizing for needing it?? What if you began to recognize all of the ways God has been inviting you into deeper places to allow your roots to grow? What if He wanted to walk with you through your past to prune away your pain and offense? What if He wanted to reinterpret assumptions you’ve made as you’ve watched your life unfold? What if…. He wanted to develop in you the courage to face the adventure that lies ahead?
God, I invite your searching gaze into my heart.
Examine me through and through;
find out everything that may be hidden within me.
Put me to the test and sift through all my anxious cares.
See if there is any path of pain I’m walking on,
and lead me back to your glorious, everlasting ways—
the path that brings me back to you. — Psalm 139:23-24 (TPT)