I am that chick, you know the one, the chick searching through all the fruit at the store for the perfect pieces. Not a single blemish. Not a single  soft spot,  nor bug among my fruit. I thump each piece and sniff it. Ripeness counts.I check for organic farming methods.

This must be perfect fruit.

I carefully bag the produce and carry it home- cushioned in the backseat of my car- far form the canned goods in the trunk that would surely bruise and probably wreck it.

Arriving home, I carefully unwrap my treasures and gather supplies.

  • Perfectly healthy potted tree. (Selected form my favorite nursery. Of course. )   Check.
  • Pitcher of water. Check.
  • Fertilizer with just the right balance of nutrients and nitrogen.  Check.
  • Sun/grow lamp.  Check.
  • Pruning shears.    Check.
  • Green topiary wire and wire snips.  Check.

I arrange my supplies on the kitchen island.  I prepare the tree by pruning off any bits that look less than healthy. I turn on the grow light and both water and fertilize the tree. Carefully, I clean each piece of fruit. I  wire each piece of fruit to the tree’s branches, careful to balance it from every angle so the tree isn’t overly stressed or weighed down.

Then, I wait.

  • A day goes by. More sun, more water.
  • 2 days, I add a bit of compost to the soil to kick up the nutrient content.
  • On the third day, I notice that the fruit looks…. less than perfect. A bit wilted, wrinkly.
  • What was perfect is not blemished.
  • Day 4, more sunlight and water.
  • By day 5, I notice mold. Soft spots are blooming on the surface of each once perfect fruit.
  • By day 7, I have zombie fruit. Rotting. Putrid. Possibly fermented. I remain hopeful. I want this fruit to grow….. I chose the perfect fruit. I gave it everything it needed to grow….IT MUST GROW.
  • By day 10, I give up. The putresence has spread to the tree’s leaves. What was sturdy and healthy is now blighted. What was growing is now stunted and slumping.

I throw the whole mess out and try again.

And again.

And again.

It never works. No matter how hard I try. Granted- I am admittedly, the Kervorkian of plant life.  But still- you’d think I could get this stuff to grow.  I did everything right. Didn’t I?

What sounds ludicrous to my greener thumbed friends-may not be so ludicrous if you re-imagine the scene:

Instead of a plant- picture me- trying so hard to be a healthy, strong Christian. Pouring water, fertilizer and sunshine on myself carefully measuring my growth. Then picture me- pouring through scripture for the perfect fruit to grow…. making a list, checking it twice gonna find out who’s naughty or nice… (oops- I heard Christmas music at the store the other day, WHILE SHOPPING FOR HALLOWEEN CANDY- No wonder I’m messed up.) I  choose: love, joy peace, kindness….carefully tying them onto the branches of my life. A kind act here, a word of love there…..

I try so hard.

I love to-do lists…. and honestly? When I first read these verses– years ago- I felt like they were a holy- to-do list.  I love marking things off a to do list. (So much so,  that I write things in that I’ve already done- just so I can mark them off…. ) I let that love flow into my walk with God. I tried to apply the same principal here…. Only-it didn’t work.  The truth is- every time I TRY to be all of those things… i end up stinking like rot. I feel frustrated, disgusted with myself and pretty much like a failed Christian.

I just. can’t do it. Maybe, I’m not supposed to.

Galatians 5: 22-26  But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness,  gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law.  Those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires.  Since we live by the Spirit, let us keep in step with the Spirit.  Let us not become conceited, provoking and envying each other.

No matter how hard you try- how much sunshine, fertilizer and compost you apply- you can’t put on fruit….. It grows.

So- I quit. I quit trying too hard. From now on- I’m going to spend my time WITH God and hope that he grows His spirit in me…..

I think I’ll end up more fruit- less zombie. But, I could be wrong….remember- I don’t “do” dirt. (Obviously.)

So, how bout you? Do you try too hard and end up with rotten tomatoes at your feet? Are you annoyed with yourself because you don’t have enough patience. kindness, love or joy? Maybe it’s time to put away the to do list and the garden implements- and spend some time- just being… with God….

“Dear Lord- I know you have so much more in mind for me than what I am and what I do….Please help me not get in the way of what you’ve planted by trying too hard… I love you Lord- amen.”

This is from a devotion I shared years ago;)  Something I need to be reminded of on a regular basis. 

The red fruit made my mouth water.  I could hardly wait for it’s ripening. To help pass time, I planned recipes for each tangy morsel.  I planned: fresh tomato salsa, bruschetta, hand made pasta tossed with tomato, olive oil and garlic and topped with looping curls of Parmesan Reggiano… the list ran for pages.

I carefully tended the plant. I gave it the perfect amount of water. I fed the soil the recommended type and amount of fertilizer.  I made sure it received the right type and amount of sunlight.

This required copious amounts of research, as I am naturally a plant slayer- not a plant player.  Maybe my acrylic nails block the green-thumb gene.  Or maybe, that gene is recessive and totally skipped my generation. Either way- I am the Dr Kervorkian of the plant world, plants come to me for help with dying, not living.

Daily I checked the fruit. And daily, my heartbreak grew.  Instead of growing and plumping to perfection, each fruit slowly deteriorated.  First, they puckered and drooped, then flattened, moldered and finally: rotted.

I reviewed all my research materials.  I’d done everything by the book:

  • Water- check
  • Sunlight- check
  • Fertilizer- check
  • Temperature- check
  • Soil- Check

Well. Almost everything.

See- I wanted fresh tomatoes and when I went to the grocer they had beautiful, but not quite ripe, tomatoes. I brought them home, tied them onto a tiny christmas tree, and tended them to (what I thought was) perfection. I thought they’d finish growing and I’d soon have the plump red fruit I craved.

Not so much.

Ridiculous?  Maybe. Evidence of my plant induced-idiocy?  Probably.

I bet I’m not the only guilty party.

Oh please, don’t pretend you’ve never done it.

Maybe it wasn’t tomatoes..  If you’re like me- maybe it was another type of fruit.  The fruit of the spirit, that you tied on and hoped would grow.

But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law. Galatians 5:22

For years I read this list as my personal “To Be” list. (A little like a “to do” list, but infinitely harder to complete.) I tore it apart and tied on tiny unripe tomatoes of the spirit…

I tried to be loving, I became: annoying.

I tried to be joyful: I walked around grinning. I looked psychotic.

I tried to be peaceful, my best effort was closer to denial.

My attempts at patience made me grind my teeth until a TMJ flare up drove me to the ER for Vicodin. (This made me kind of peaceful in a stoned, not so much a holy spirit- way.  Which is not the same thing.)