Brenda and I have been working in California and learning about the walnut and almond harvest in the central valley. The vast majority of the worlds almonds and walnuts are produced here. The almond trees around us have about a 20 year harvest, at that point there is a break even point where it is more profitable to push the small trees over with a dozer and replace them with more fruitful young trees. Seeing what seems like good trees discarded is sobering. They still looked pretty good to me :-).
When I see something like this in the natural world I always want to check what I am seeing and interpret it with scripture.
“And one of them, a lawyer, asked him a question to test him. “Teacher, which is the great commandment in the Law?” And he said to him, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the great and first commandment. And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. On these two commandments depend all the Law and the Prophets.” Matt 22:36-40
We often consider these the Great Commandments, alongside the Great Commission. Love God and love your neighbor. But in reading this more closely we see there is a single Great Commandment. Jesus adds a second, correlating command to love your neighbor. It is important to note they are not equal but corollary. In 1st John we learn that true love for God is always followed by love for your neighbor. When I consider this primary and secondary relationship, my mind goes back to the trees in California.
My body and life are like the tree, a vessel of fruitful harvest. There is a great upward flow in those trees, the roots pull water and nutrients toward the fruit. So too, there should be an upward thrust in me, a harvest of praise and love that moves with purpose toward my Lord and then an overflowing outward harvest of love for my neighbor.
Certainly, those bull-dozed trees, seem a little wasteful. After considering this a bit more I see a few things more clearly. Life is short, almost unnaturally so, and what seems ongoing is actually very temporary. Secondly, and this almost pains me to say, the trees aren’t as important as the fruit. While they have some value, they are mostly valued as a vehicle to a greater purpose. In my journey I have often valued the vessel, my life, more than the fruit of it. It is more about what I love, how I feel, how secure and comfortable I am. It has been my personal harvest of collecting and curating my beautiful collection of esteeming thoughts and words of others toward me. In contrast, the biblical call is to bear the fruit of worship and the fruit of neighborly love.
Certainly we are more valuable to the Lord than what we produce, scripture teaches us that his love pursued us before our productivity. That said, the lesson for me today is this, what is truly eternal is the fruit of my love and praise of God and subsequent sacrificial love to others. An everlasting grove of trees that proclaim his excellence.
“Then the angel showed me the river of the water of life, bright as crystal, flowing from the throne of God and of the Lamb through the middle of the street of the city; also, on either side of the river, the tree of life with its twelve kinds of fruit, yielding its fruit each month. The leaves of the tree were for the healing of the nations.” Rev. 22:1-2