Zero fruit. My tree had zero fruit. I’d had grand hopes for the satsuma tree in our backyard garden, dreaming of the sweet, juicy citrus fruit it would bear. As the cool days of November drifted into our otherwise warm and humid coastal Texas climate, however, I realized there was no fruit to be found. Exactly zero satsumas. You’d think I would have noticed the lack of fruit long before picking season, but I have a bit of a brown thumb so I’m usually enjoying the garden from the safe distance of the porch, snuggled up with coffee and a book or perched with a laptop for an afternoon Zoom meeting.
Suddenly, I panicked. What happened to the tree? Aren’t satsumas tough and low maintenance? I know we didn’t prune too much because that would require actual maintenance, and we just aren’t garden maintenance people. That’s why we only keep hardy plants, the kind sturdy enough to fend for themselves most of the time — like the satsuma. Still, I wondered, did we unknowingly harm it?
A quick internet search revealed a profound truth: trees overloaded with fruit in previous years get worn out, and from time to time, they decide to take a year off to recover.
Come to think of it, last year’s fruit harvest was almost overwhelming. We bagged countless satsumas and gifted them to every person we could think of. Now, our tree was growing and healthy, boasting vibrant deep green leaves and strong branches — just no visible fruit. A wasted season? Not at all. It was a necessary season, and the tree knew it.
No tree bears fruit year-round, and the seasons without visible fruit are just as valuable. After all, those dormant seasons are where the deep, behind-the-scenes work of rest and growth and maturity occur. An appearance of lack now will produce an abundance when it’s time.
Jesus had plenty to say about garden rhythms as well. During His last conversation with the disciples before the crucifixion, He said, “This is to my Father’s glory, that you bear much fruit, showing yourselves to be my disciples” (John 15:8 NIV). Every part of creation ultimately exists for the glory of God, and when we are immensely fruitful, He receives all the glory for the abundance. Yet He clarifies: “I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing” (John 15:5 NIV).
To use Jesus’ illustration, the very nature of alive branches requires continuous connection to the vine. The vine pushes life and nourishment through the branch, and in due season, the result is fruit. The cultivation of fruit in our lives is His work, but my calendar-driven, task-loving, achievement-seeking self tends to live as if it’s mine, forgetting just how dependent I really am on Him and instead relying on my ability to get things done. It’s easy to confuse productivity with fruitfulness. While, in truth, on our own, we can be incredibly busy yet not fruitful.
Due to unexpected circumstances, both of our daughters are currently homeschooled, a team effort among family members and a dear friend. I’ve led the charge of teaching our youngest daughter to read, an exercise in patience and presence. Witnessing her process of learning and growth has been one of my greatest joys, but I never anticipated it cultivating learning and growth in me. One morning in particular, I struggled to stay present. As my phone lit up with text after text because work needed my attention, she kept plodding along, slowly sounding out each letter of each word in her reader. I felt myself grow antsy, wanting to hurry, to get to the end so I could move on to the pile of to-dos I knew was waiting for me. Then I felt the Holy Spirit impress on my soul: “What is slow and uncomfortable is good for you.”
How is our satsuma tree smarter than I am? It doesn’t question the purpose of seasons. It wholly surrenders to the rhythms established for it, of both visible and invisible work, trusting that each moment of every day — the ones where I see fruit and the ones where I don’t — is working together to help it flourish and do exactly what it was created to do.
In the same way, we flourish when we give ourselves completely to His ways, His rhythms, and His work, trusting Him to cultivate fruitfulness in every kind of season. The words of Jesus — and the example of my wise satsuma tree — help us see that the mundane cadence of work and dishes and reading lessons and laundry are full of purpose. The painful days of loss and grief are significant. Days of celebration and fun matter, too, and days of quiet and rest are for our good. All of our days matter, not because of what we can accomplish with them, but because of what our Father accomplishes in us through them.
Rhythms of rest are fruitful, and seasons with no outward fruit are necessary for fruitfulness. We tend to be more interested in visible outcomes, but Jesus is more interested in our dependence and the fruit only He can see. And as our Gardner, He vigilantly tends to each of us, working the soil of our lives to produce His lasting fruit.Leave a Comment