Last night I was coaching the folks who lead our home Bible study groups. We were in Mark 11, reading about the fig tree that Jesus cursed for not providing any fruit. Verse 13 is painful and provocative: Seeing in the distance a fig tree in leaf, he went to see whether perhaps he would find anything on it. When he came to it, he found nothing but leaves, for it was not the season for figs. Not the season? Seems so unfair. But the Lord expects us to be about his desired work, "in season and out" (II Timothy 4:2).
Later, my mind wandered (or maybe the Spirit moved me) to another "fig tree" passage, in Luke 13:6-9,
Then he told this parable: "A man had a fig tree, planted in his vineyard, and he went to look for fruit on it, but did not find any. So he said to the man who took care of the vineyard, 'For three years now I've been coming to look for fruit on this fig tree and haven't found any. Cut it down! Why should it use up the soil?'
" 'Sir,' the man replied, 'leave it alone for one more year, and I'll dig around it and fertilize it. If it bears fruit next year, fine! If not, then cut it down.' "
With some church calendars placing Lent in sight this coming Sunday*, my Lenten discipline is coming into harsh focus:
- How am I "fruitless"? What is God seeking from my life that I am holding back?
- What is Christ giving me that I am meant to retain? How is he "digging around me" so that I can hold "living water", and how am I letting it seep away?
- How is he "fertilizing" me? What crap is he throwing at me that is actually meant to nurture and transform me, and how am I resisting his effort?
*The three Sundays before Ash Wednesday: Septuagesima, Sexagesima, Quinquagesima.