A Good Tree Cannot Bear Bad Fruit

A few weeks ago, I was in the midst of “the perfect storm.”

I was still pregnant and close to giving birth to my (first) daughter.  I had just received yet another insulting form of rejection from a person whom I have kept in my life for far too long.  I spent that week’s therapy session discussing the role of this person in my life, the emotional importance her relationship served, and how welcoming my daughter into the world would likely change how I felt about that relationship.  Then, at the end of that week I attended our new church where the message of the sermon was about Matthew 7:18 – “A good tree cannot bear bad fruit.”

I listened closely to the pastor that Sunday.  He said, “When things aren’t what they used to be, you have to change what you’re used to doing.” 

People love truth, and people love authenticity.  There is a low tolerance for the inauthentic in our society.  The tree that bears fruit is the perfect example of the difference between the authentic and the inauthentic.  Just as a tree grows and develops fruit over time, we as people grow and develop our habits and behaviours.  Just as a person would stop picking and eating rotten fruit from a bad tree, they would also stop dealing with or interacting with a person who routinely showed poor or inauthentic behaviours.

I used to think that I was the person with the poor our inauthentic behaviours: Why would someone be so hurtful towards me and make such an effort to exclude me from their life?  I have worked hard over the years to overcome this thought, attributing it to my low self-esteem that developed from my difficult childhood and poor relationships with my parents.  It may have taken years to believe this truth, but I am not a bad tree – I am a good tree that bears good fruit.  I really am.

However, even good trees have branches that are heavy and burdensome – branches that are overgrown and don’t produce any fruit.  These branches take up the resources and energy of the tree and prevent it from producing abundant fruit.  This idea reminded me of the advice I received from a fellow gardener last summer when I asked her about her fruitful tomato plants.  She told me to trim off all of the branches on my tomato plants that were not growing tomatoes.  This way the plant would stop wasting energy on the branches that weren’t growing fruit and instead would use that energy to grow bigger, more healthy tomatoes.  I used her advice and sure enough, my tomatoes grew bigger and faster.

If a tree is a metaphor for my life, it is only natural that I would have these heavy, burdensome branches that are weighing me down.  It is only natural, then, that I should need to prune my own boughs with the hopes of removing those parts of my life that are only causing me grief, so that I can concentrate more on the best parts of my life.  The pastor continues on in his sermon, addressing the need for pruning in our lives.  Like the gardener’s advice for my tomato plants, he quoted another part of the scripture: “The farmer cuts off branches that bear no fruit and prunes the ones that do bear fruit so that they will be more fruitful.”  He continued on, addressing all of us and saying rather matter-of-factly: “Most of us know exactly what areas of our lives need to be pruned.”

Despite all this advice, pruning is not easy; It is the targeted removal of something from our lives.  It isn’t fun – it cuts to the core, it is invasive, painful, and it is cutting something out of your life that needs to be removed.

For 18 months I have let myself hold onto the idea or illusion that Kay would come back into my life and that we would, gain, have some kind of friendship.  The timing of this sermon immediately after the mix-up/rejection from Kay was nothing more than perfect.  And, what better time to prune something so heavy and fruitless from my life than right before I prepare to welcome my daughter into my life.

My relationship with Kay initially sprouted from a need to fill in the missing mother-daughter relationship in my life.  It may have worked for a small while.  But there is never a replacement for the real thing – and now I am at the beginning of the best most real opportunity to develop this type of relationship… With my very own daughter.

 

 

Unexpected Revelation

It was the Friday before Valentines Day and my Husband forwarded me an invitation over text message.  The invitation was from his clinic partner for his daughter’s “Dedication” on that Sunday at their Christian Assembly Church.  My husband asked me if it was something that we should go to.

We are not a religious family by any stretch of the imagination.  I was raised Catholic and I consider myself educated in the tenants of Christianity, as well as the basics of other major World Religions from classes I took in university.  My husband would identify himself as “agnostic,” although I would argue he falls more on the side of strong atheist.  We have had many arguments  discussions about how to raise our children when it comes to religion and I eventually just gave up on him.

In response to my husband’s question, I told him that it was something important to his partner and that it would be a nice gesture for us to attend.  So, he sent the RSVP to his friend and we prepared to attend a Sunday Church service together… for the first time ever.

It just so happened that on this weekend, my Mother was visiting us from out of town.  My Mother is on the complete opposite end of the religious spectrum from my Husband: She is a prophesied born again, Evangelical Christian who belongs to circles of self-proclaimed prophets and the likes.  I have worked very, very, hard to establish boundaries around religion when it comes to my Mom – and these do fail at most opportunities.  As you can imagine, my Mother was beaming when I told her we were attending a Christian Service that Sunday, and Of Course she would be honoured to attend the service with us.

Sunday morning after filling up on a rather rushed breakfast, we all piled into our SUV to drive across the city to the Christian Assembly Church.  I could feel my Mother’s smugness emanating from the back seat of the car and I was already beginning to worry about the conflict that would certainly arise following the service.  I hadn’t been to Church with my mother since I was a teenager and I had no choice but to go with her after the weekly reciting of the “My House, My Rules” speech.

I signed up the boys for the pre-school Sunday School class and we found ourselves some seats half-way down the congregation.  We stood during the Worship – My Mother on one side of me swaying to the music, with her arms open and giving praise, and my Husband on the other side, shifting his weight uncomfortably.  I felt a strange surge of emotion, knowing that my Mother was in her element while my Husband was just using every ounce of energy not to leave the service.  For me, the worship was exactly what I expected it to be: not foreign but not familiar.  Not uncomfortable by any means.

After the Worship we sat down and listened to a guest Pastor and his wife talk about Marriage.  That was the theme of the day – Marriage in the Bible, and how to apply it to the modern day marriage.  I found some of the information presented to be interesting and inspiring.  I resisted the urge to look over at my Mother, who was contently listening despite the fact that she has never been remarried and still hold significant resentment towards my father and her divorce from 25 years ago.  I was beginning to predict the criticisms I would hear later from my Husband.  Finally, the service was over.  We collected the boys from preschool class and piled back into the SUV to drive to the Dedication Brunch.

Silence.

We drove for a little while before my Mom started: “That was a beautiful Service, wasn’t it?  So much interesting information.  What did you guys think?” Why does she have to start these conversations?  I’ve been through this with her before.

“It was nice.” My husband replied.

I quickly shifted the conversation to ask the boys about what they did at the Sunday School – They talked mostly about crafts and playing with toys.  I was relieved that this strategy worked.  I said my own little prayer hoping that this would be the end of the “church discussion” between my Husband, my Mother, and I.

Thankfully that was it.  We enjoyed the brunch together, congratulated my husband’s co-worker on their daughter’s dedication, and proceeded to go on with our Valentines day.

Later that evening, as my Husband and I drove away from the house on our way to our Valentines Day date, he started the conversation:
“That Church service was interesting today.  I’ve never been to a Church that plays live music and has such relevant and modern sermons.  I think maybe I’ve misjudged the role of church.”

I tried to keep my eyeballs in their sockets!
This, coming from the man who absolutely refused to entertain the idea of sending out kids to Catholic school for fear of indoctrination!  Even with my efforts over all our years together to explain to him that religion/faith has a lot of offer, even if it is just learning the stories and parables in the Bible.  I told him, many times, that “God” can represent anything you want it to – it doesn’t have to refer to the Omniscient Creator, if you don’t want it to.  He never seemed to care… Until that Valentines Sunday, that is.

“As I was listening to the Pastor, I realized that even though he talked about God a lot, God can be anything you want it to be.  When I thought of it that way, what he said about Marriage seemed to be really good advice.”

So I can tell him that numerous times over the years of our courtship and Marriage, but he won’t believe it until we actually go to Church???

“I think there is a lot of value in what they were saying today.  I think, maybe, our family could benefit from doing something like this every week.

!!!

I almost fell out of the car!  “You mean, you want to start going to Church, every week?” I asked my Husband.

“Yeah, I wouldn’t mind giving it a try.”

And so, at the request of my beyond atheist, cynical Husband, we have been attending the Christian Assembly Church every Sunday since Valentines Day.