I lived in a village in Tanzania that had a big, old avocado tree that was a local treasure. The tree grew in the middle of town, and its fruit was available to anyone in the village. The tree was cherished and protected by the villagers—for some of whom an avocado might comprise most of the food they’d get in a day.
An avocado tree can take up to 15 years to produce fruit. It also requires careful attention throughout those years. To the village, the tree represented a labor of love and patience, rewards slow in coming but appreciated for decades.
My old backyard boasted a giant oak tree, its branches fanning out over our backyard, providing shade, and the perfect branch for a swing. When we sold our home, this tree was one of the selling features. My new home is in a recently developed community, and all the trees are saplings, providing neither shade nor beauty. It will be decades before these trees have earned their keep.
I got to thinking about trees when I was reading about the fruit of the Spirit.1 The list names a lot of virtues I want to have more of in my life, but what struck me is that fruit grows on trees, and trees take time to produce fruit.
I think that’s why we can appreciate mature trees so much. We know that it takes decades for a tree to grow that big or be able to produce fruit. We know we must be patient with the trees, but often forget that we must be patient with ourselves and others as we mature to the point that we can produce the fruits of the Spirit.
There might be many years where we don’t see much of anything. And in these quiet years we can trust that, as long as our roots are growing deep in Jesus, we will eventually produce the fruits of the Spirit. God doesn’t rush us. He says “let patience have its perfect work, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking nothing.”[[James 1:4]]
This is a truth I’ve only begun to understand. Don’t rush the fruit. Learning this for myself and those in my care, both personally and professionally, is changing my thinking. I’m not as rushed for results as I’m interested in growth. I can help produce the environment needed for thriving and trust that God will bring about the fruit.