Walking in cold that hurts my face just lacks pizzaz. But Monday morning the weather was beautiful, and finally nice enough for me to venture out with hubby for a walk in the woods!
The land we strolled through is a local land conservation property maintained by the town. Crews haven’t been through for spring clean-up yet, and we had to navigate around or under a few trees that had fallen on the trail.
In addition to removing downed trees, crews will have to come through to cut back overgrown catbriers that are attempting to take over the forest, trails and all!
We walked by many brambles of catbrier, and even saw a cluster of berries.
Each one of those berries usually contains one seed. Here’s what happens when they fall to the ground:
Every one of those green stalks is catbrier vine. Not all new stalks grow from berries, though, as the roots spread out underground and can send up new shoots at any point.
This is what a bramble of vines looks like before the spring leaves bud:
All of that green is thorny catbrier! When it fills out with foliage in the spring, there’s no room for sunlight to reach the forest floor beneath.
This vine may be native and have a history of usefulness (it actually made the Wildflower of the Month list at the Virginia Native Plant Society in 2018), but almost anyone who’s had a run-in with it sees absolutely no good qualities to speak of. Brushing up against it is painful, and removing it is arduous. It grows at a phenomenal rate, quickly climbing over trees and bushes if not kept in check.
The whole point of fruit is to produce and carry seeds. The catbrier produces berries that are enjoyed by birds and black bears (I’m not sure how I managed to see a whole clump of berries so late in the season!). Seeds are then dropped who-knows-where, and new vines grow as a result.
Each one of us produces fruit as well, but not in the form of berries or apples!
The question of the day is, what type of fruit are we growing? When that fruit matures, what kind of seeds does it produce, and what will the seeds grow into? Any seed that grows produces more of what it came from.
The kind of fruit that we produce is determined by the kind of person we are, and the kind of life we live.
A good tree can’t produce bad fruit, and a bad tree can’t produce good fruit. So every tree that does not produce good fruit is chopped down and thrown into the fire. Yes, just as you can identify a tree by its fruit, so you can identify people by their actions.Matthew 7:18-20 NLT
How do we identify good versus bad fruit?
“But the Holy Spirit produces this kind of fruit in our lives: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. There is no law against these things!” (Galatians 5:22-23).
This list seems to have a lot to do with how we relate to others, doesn’t it? It reminds me of this passage from Philippians:
“Is there any encouragement from belonging to Christ? Any comfort from his love? Any fellowship together in the Spirit? Are your hearts tender and compassionate? Then make me truly happy by agreeing wholeheartedly with each other, loving one another, and working together with one mind and purpose. Don’t be selfish; don’t try to impress others. Be humble, thinking of others as better than yourselves. Don’t look out only for your own interests, but take an interest in others, too” (Philippians 2:1-2).
“When you follow the desires of your sinful nature, the results are very clear: sexual immorality, impurity, lustful pleasures, idolatry, sorcery, hostility, quarreling, jealousy, outbursts of anger, selfish ambition, dissension, division, envy, drunkenness, wild parties, and other sins like these. Let me tell you again, as I have before, that anyone living that sort of life will not inherit the Kingdom of God” (Galatians 5:19-20).
While the list of good fruit is produced by the Holy Spirit in our lives and seems to look outward, this list of bad fruit appears to come from putting our own selfish desires above the needs of others. Many of them are harmful to others in one way or another. You know the saying, “Hurt people hurt people!” Bad fruit leads to more bad fruit.
A Good Harvest
If we realize that we’re producing bad fruit, what should we do about it?
- Realize that we can’t fix ourselves by just trying to be good. We’re not strong enough to do it on our own! We need some serious help from the inside out.
- Get to know Jesus. He loves us immensely, and only wants the best for us! If you don’t already have one, I encourage you to get a Bible that has red letters in it and start by just reading those. Those red letters are the words Jesus spoke while He walked the earth. What did He have to say? What did his words reveal about who He is?
- Talk to God. Ask for his help in changing our lives. This business of changing from a bad tree to a good one usually doesn’t happen overnight; it’s a life-long process. There’s feeding, pruning, and all sorts of seasonal care that goes into fruit tree cultivation! We can’t give up before the work is done.
Jesus made a promise to his followers (which includes me and you, if you choose!):
“Yes, I am the vine; you are the branches. Those who remain in me, and I in them, will produce much fruit. For apart from me you can do nothing. Anyone who does not remain in me is thrown away like a useless branch and withers. Such branches are gathered into a pile to be burned. But if you remain in me and my words remain in you, you may ask for anything you want, and it will be granted! When you produce much fruit, you are my true disciples. This brings great glory to my Father.”John 15:5-8
4. Find a community of Jesus followers to join. We all need support and accountability on this journey of faith.
Now it’s your turn!
How is the fruit of your life affecting others? Are you more like a grape vine or a catbrier bramble?
Is it time to let the Master Gardener clean things up a bit? He’s willing and able!