By Jessica McDougald
When I was growing up, we’d go visit my grandparents a few weekends out of each year. Upon arriving, I wanted two things: one, to be the very center of my Grandma’s attention (she has always been on the list of my Top 5 Favorite People) and, two, to go upstairs to her closet and try on every single pair of shoes in her extensive shoe collection.
While I was upstairs clomping around in her heels, My Grandma and Mom would be in the garden.
My Grandma had planted flowers in almost every part of her yard. She had deep purple Irises taller than I was, and in July the Tiger-Lilies put on their bright-orange prom gowns just for me. There were daisies and hostas and touch-me-nots. There were roses of every color, and hydrangeas with faces bigger than mine. Bees buzzed, butterflies fluttered, hummingbirds hovered. My Grandma and my Mom would spend hours out in the garden, talking about flowers and bulbs and pruning.
The Matriarchs in my family have a long tradition of plant-sharing. I distinctly remember my Grandma pointing out certain flowers and saying “these came from Mama’s,” and “these are from Ruth’s.” In the same way, my Mom’s yard is a testament to the women who’ve come before. “Great-Grandma Hall’s Phlox” have been growing by the front porch for as long as I can remember.
I marvel over this – one plant, growing and blooming healthily for decades, in three separate yards. Good roots, in the hands of loving gardeners, producing blooms for years.
Jesus says that the way to bear good fruit is to abide in his love. That’s it. There’s no complicated formula or list of extensive list of rules to follow. Our good fruit is the love that we outpour naturally when we’re so connected to and filled with Jesus’s love for us.
Great-Grandma Hall’s Phlox, Grandma Phillips’ Gardenias, Camille’s Peonies, all growing in my Mom’s yard, don’t have to try to bloom. Fruit doesn’t try to grow. The azaleas don’t bloom because they’ve made up their mind to do so. The trees trust that the Gardener will send rain and sunshine that will stretch their branches to bring us shade and a spot to hang our tire-swings. Blossoms and fruit are what happens naturally to a branch that is abiding in its vine’s good roots in the care of a trust-worthy Gardener. And so it is with us.
If we are to be a harvest-minded people, we’ll need to start by checking our own fruit. Where are our hearts? How has my love for Jesus influenced my love for others? Have I lived like a person who loves Jesus and who dares to call him a friend? Does the fruit I bear point to the greatness and care of the Gardener?
May we be people who know that we are beloved by Jesus, not because of anything we can do, but for some divine reason that we’ll never fully grasp. May we so embody that unexplainable love that we can’t stop ourselves from extending it to others. May our fruit bear witness to the one for whom our hearts long. May our relationships with Jesus truly matter, not just to us but to those we come into contact with, as well.
Jessica McDougald is a CBF Leadership Scholar and student at Campbell University Divinity School. She serves as Minister to Youth at Millbrook Baptist Church and lives in Raleigh, N.C., with her husband, daughter, and two dogs.