The gap between Easter and Advent has seemed especially long this year. Perhaps this is because of the discipline I’ve undertaken of writing a weekly reflection throughout all of Ordinary Time, perhaps the slow drag of lockdown. But this year I have felt every week of Ordinary Time as though it should be over and Christmas here. Now that Advent is just around the corner and the shops are selling Christmas decorations and food, the feeling is only partly lifting. It will hardly be an ordinary Christmas anyway, will it? Besides, are we ready? Christmas often catches me by surprise. This year I am not even sure I feel like it could happen.
But, after a year of watching my garden, I am starting to see fruit on the trees. The apple trees we bought last year are fruiting, and the peach and plum trees that the aphids destroyed last year are full of small green and yellow promises. Even the feijoa is giving us its dazzling fireworks display to reassure us that, come autumn, it will have something for us. Things, it seems, could be bearing fruit in spite of it all.
So what then of the fruit in my own life? I do not look as eagerly or faithfully for my own fruit as I do my garden’s fruit, but I still find myself looking where fruit should be and finding little. Why is that? Perhaps because I am lacking in faithfulness, perhaps because I simply need to wait longer – or perhaps because I am looking for the wrong fruit.
All too often when I look for fruit in my life I look for signs of success, for achievements. I look at the twelve years I spent completing a Bible College diploma and wonder what I’ve “got to show for it”. I look at the likes my writing receives. I look, in other words, for the kind of fruit that sprouts easily, fades quickly and means very little. The real fruit I should be looking for – love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, gentleness, self control – cannot be so easily quantified and rarely dazzles, rarely hits the love heart emoji in my life. But it’s the true fruit, the fruit I should be cultivating and looking for above all else.
Such fruit rarely grows quickly. It grows in the slow soil of the soul, nurtured by waiting, loss, humility, pain, and above all by the Spirit of Jesus who made himself nothing that we might have everything. I do not know what fruit this season of life has been growing in me, and I may not know for a long time. But I will never know if I keep looking for the wrong kind of fruit, and may well never grow that fruit if I do not seek it above all others.
And so, before this season ends, I need to stop and take an inventory of my soul’s garden. What fruit am I looking for? What fruit do I expect to see?