Matthew 7:15 (Jesus said) “Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing but inwardly are ravenous wolves. 16 You will know them by their fruits. Are grapes gathered from thorns, or figs from thistles? 17 In the same way, every good tree bears good fruit, but the bad tree bears bad fruit. 18 A good tree cannot bear bad fruit, nor can a bad tree bear good fruit. 19 Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. 20 Thus you will know them by their fruits.”
What gets my attention in this passage today is the metaphor of “fruit”. You plant a seed, then you wait. It can takes weeks, months, or even years to see the results. During dry months a plant can look almost dead, but then rain comes and perks things right up. Or a plant can look great in the early going, only to be eaten by bugs or stricken by drought. This is especially true with something as large and slow-growing an oak tree. The timelines are long, but the results can last hundreds of years.
Of course, the “trees” Jesus names in the passage refers to people. As a father my mind goes to my children, but this can apply to most any form of human development. Training up people takes time. I was talking with a mother of a teenage daughter who is perplexed by her daughter’s change in demeanor. They used to be so close, now it seems the daughter wants nothing to do with mom. Until she does. She is surly and contrary one minute, then wants hugs the next. Mom is thoroughly confused and is certain she has done a terrible job as a mother.
As the father of three young adult children I have more perspective than this struggling mother. It’s true, the teenage years are hard as young people make the transition from child to adult. It’s easy to think you’ve blown it. My counsel to this woman was to ask the Lord for patience. Lord willing, there are better days ahead. The parts of the child that seem to have been lost in teenage years will re-emerge. The seeds of “good fruit” mom planted in her child over many years are still there and will blossom with time.
Lord teach us to have faith when doubt creeps in. For you are not done with us. Amen.