The fig tree needs more time. It is not ready to shed figs upon its neighbors just yet. The birds and squirrels will just have to wait and find their food elsewhere. The people will just have to move on and harvest other trees. The fig tree needs more manure, more water, more pruning, and more nurturing. It just is not ready.
“I’m just not ready,” said the husband to his wife when she suggested that he come out of the den and participate in the bible study.
“I wouldn’t know what to say. I don’t think that I could even find the table of contents in the Bible much less look up a verse. I’m certain that I wouldn’t contribute anything to the study. I’m just not ready.”
Little does the husband realize, he is stuck. He is stuck in his insecurity. He does not know how to contribute to a discussion about faith. He does not know the first thing about contributing to other people’s faith development through a bible study.
Just as the gardener plans to attend to the growth of the tree, so too does the wife intend to nourish her husband, and, at least, show him how to look up a verse in the bible. That will not be enough to shape his faith, of course, but at least it is a first step.
"I’m just not ready,” said the mother who lost her son in a freak accident where a tree just decided to give its last breath and fall on the boy.
“I’m just not ready to move on in life. My boy was the love of my life. I’m just not rea…I just don’t understand.”
Like so many who have come before, like those who walked up to Jesus with their questions about the cause of terrible calamities, the mother questioned.
“Did I somehow deserve this pain? Was I not a good enough mother? Did God decided that I was the wrong choice after-all, and my son is just taken from me? I am just not ready to move on; not ready to do anything for anyone; not ready to even leave the house!”
The mother knew all too well that she was stuck. She was stuck in her grief. She just did not know how to switch automatically from the identity of mother raising a good, upright, productive young man to…well to…to something else that was not that; whatever that may be.
Just as the gardener hopes to prune and care for the fig tree that it may grow, the mother’s best friend was willing to give her a listening ear for as long as it took to get her unstuck. The friend knew how special and kind the mother was. The world did not deserve for her to be stuck for long, and neither did she. The world would miss out on a wonderful person.
It takes manure to make the fig tree flourish. Well, at least it is hoped that pitching some manure around the base of the tree will cause it to produce the beloved figs.
Taking this manure image to the next level, a seminary friend, after a horrible, snowball type day of a bad grade in the morning, a broken water pump in the car at noon, and an unexpected bill in the afternoon, stated, “Lord, if this is supposed to make me stronger, I’ve got to tell ya, I’ve got plenty of…"manure"…on me already!”
It was funny, especially in that irreverent, get all of the swearing out of you in seminary before you become a pastor, sort of way. But, it was also wrong.
The manure is not made up of the challenges of life. When Jesus was asked about the visitors to Jerusalem who were indiscriminately slaughtered by Pilate, and when Jesus talked about the people who were crushed by the tower that crumbled and fell, he clearly proclaimed that these tragic, horrible events where not retribution from a punishing god. They were not some sort of death sentence carried out on particularly sinful people. They did not deserve it. Period.
That means your fourth grade bully (you know…the one who put superglue on the toilet seat just before you sat down) is not going to be struck in the head by a random meteor tomorrow because of his evil deeds that still linger in the shape of an oval on your posterior to this day.
Nor is the manure tests for those around the tragedies given by a heavenly school teacher.
The manure is not some giant slurry mixed with of all the sins and tragic events that get you stuck in life.
Quite to the contrary, the manure is God’s grace. When we are stuck in life, Jesus spreads some grace on us with his pitchfork so that we just might begin to grow and flourish.
The manure is the grace of God that heals the brokenhearted and promises new life.
The manure is the grace of God that desires to draw us nearer to Jesus through the stories of the scriptures.
The manure is that grace of God that forgives us and sets us free from the sins that hold us back.
The Manure is the love of Jesus, who, on the cross, demonstrated that he would go to any length to give us the hope that there is always new life beyond where you are currently stuck. We will produce beautiful fruit once again.
Understand, the world is like the landowner who would decide to simply cut down the fig tree when it does not bear nice, juicy fruit. Jesus is the one who demands more time to water and lay down manure so that the fig may come back and bear fruit to all those around.
The world would have no problem cutting you off at the roots whenever you become stuck and unproductive. Jesus decides to give you more tending and caring so that you may finally be the person you were created to be; a child of God who bears fruit of love and compassion on the neighbor…especially the poor and sinful ones.
Being stuck in life, no matter the cause, is not the last word for your life.
Thank you Jesus for that.