On our run last week, Jeremy and I found a huge row of berry bushes. Big, heavy with fruit bushes.
Because of the limited rain over the past month, the berries were struggling to ripen but they were there. Tons of them.
Today, we took the time to walk over to these bushes with the girls so that we could pick some berries.
And, standing there watching my family struggle to pick the fruit, God showed me something about fruit, our Christian walk and our ability to share our faith with others around the world.
You see, there were thousands of berries on these bushes. Slowly ripening, yes… but the fruit was there. The potential for fruit was quite unbelievable.
Yet as I stood there, staring at these bushes heavy with berries in all stages of readiness, I couldn’t help but feel sad at the great loss.
So, many berries. So much fruit.
So much waste.
Yes… great waste.
These bushes, while quite fruitful and productive, were guarding their fruit so closely that the majority of the fruit would go to waste without anyone even benefiting from it.
Huge thorns protected the great magnitude of ripening fruit. Vines growing in and around and over and under each other. No space to climb through the branches to get to the higher fruit.
And we saw fruit up there. Completely guarded and surrounded by thorns and vines and branches. Completely unreachable by human hands.
All that beautiful, life-giving fruit.
Healthy, happy, growing, fruitful, plentiful bushes.
But no one could pick the fruit. No one could get to the health, nourishment and joy that the berries could provide. No pies. No jams. No pancakes. No ice cream topping. None.
Because the trees were holding on so closely to the fruit and it was impossible to access it by those seeking the bounty.
And I wondered, is this what we do with our faith?
Do we cluster together, feed from each other, grow in our knowledge of spiritual things, look beautiful and life-giving but when others look in, we are full of thorns and the fruit of our growth is unreachable, unattainable, unable to bless and nourish?
We can be healthy, growing, multiplying, successful, bountiful in our faith, in our churches, in our programs and projects… and still be completely inaccessible and unusable.
Don’t get me wrong… growth is SO good. We must be growing and producing fruit!
But is the growth affecting our world? Is the growth impacting and reaching and moving and doing?
Only the fruit that dared to be hanging on the edges, out on a limb, and away from the thorns was usable to those who wanted to partake.
Only the fruit pushing forward and out of the masses was able to feed, nourish and give of its fruit.
The fruit high up in the bushes, surrounded by thorns was beautiful and growing… but it was wasted.
Only the fruit that made sure it could be reached was usable and sustainable.
To those in need, that was the fruit that mattered, that made an impact, that gave life.
So as I ponder this, as I long to rush back into the comfort of my home country and all things known to me, as I fight daily for the courage to remain out here, exposed… on the edge…
This lesson of missions that God was speaking to my heart in that moment was incredibly challenging and even a little bit scary… this lesson was for me. and maybe for you.
But I know God was speaking through this big, beautiful fruit bushes.
And these whispers of prayer began and have continued throughout the day.
May my fruit, my growth be life-giving, accessible, free, ready for the taking.
May God clear away the thorns, untwist the coiled vines, make paths where there were no paths, cause long-term growth in my life that impacts those around me.
May my faith not be something fruitful only in the numbers of those around me who think and act like me…
May my faith be usable in the hands of the Gardener who prunes, guides and plans out the order of each and every bush so that all the berries are able to reach those who hunger and thirst.
That is missions.
To go out on a limb, to go where most aren’t, to bring fruit to the places where God is longing to reach, to make the gospel accessible to the whole world, to those who have never heard.
That the world might not just see our faith in huge clumps, enormous, thorn-filled bushes… big beautiful places full of fruit.
But that the fruit might spread and cover the whole earth, impact people and bring nourishment and life to the darkest places.
So that all can hear, all can know, all can grasp how great is the love of our Savior.
That is missions.
May we all have the courage, the tenacity, the drive, the pull to go outside our comfort zones and share the fruit of our faith with a world that is desperate for Hope.
That is missions.