Has God ever spoken to you through something really random? He spoke to me unexpectedly the other day. As I was driving along a busy ‘A’ road admiring the lingering autumn colours in the varying trees along the roadside, I was taken by surprise to see a fully laden apple tree growing about two feet from the edge of the tarmac road. I laughed to myself as it dawned on me that this was the result of somebody’s apple core being flung from the window – and then I caught my breath as several thoughts all hit me at once. The three most relevant of these are that the tree had grown successfully without any nurturing or maintenance; that the person who inadvertently planted that tree probably has no idea of the result of that thought-free action; and that it was such a waste that those fruits were growing in a completely inaccessible place and would never be eaten!
In the last month I have been bereaved twice within one week, waking up on two consecutive Fridays to the tragic news that somebody I loved incredibly much had been taken far sooner than seems fair. Losses like that can stop us in our tracks and make us think, can’t they? So maybe it’s no surprise that when I saw the apple tree, I knew God was speaking to me specifically about purpose and legacy. I instinctively knew that the thoughts mentioned above could be applicable to things within my life (and perhaps yours too). I’m going to attempt to explain those thoughts for us now, because I’m hoping this will encourage and inspire us all.
The apple tree had grown and prospered because it had everything it needed: the seeds held the potential to become an apple tree, and they found themselves in the correct environment to carry out that potential and purpose. Without any effort really, the seed had grown into a flourishing and productive apple tree, fulfilling its purpose to grow healthy fruit. I believe that God has put inside each of us certain ‘seeds’ (gifts, talents, passions, etc.) that become an innate part of who we are as individuals. Some of these undoubtedly need nurturing… but if we reflect and think about the things we are good at that others perhaps comment on, which come so naturally to us we perhaps don’t even think of them as a ‘thing’… then I believe these could be our God-given strengths, and the areas where we will see the most ‘apples’ that we can potentially use to enrich other’s lives.
Hand in hand with that, comes a responsibility perhaps to put ourselves into the correct environments for those ‘seeds’ to be able to flourish. Instead of just effectively ‘chucking the apple core’ by carrying on in our own happy bubble, maybe we need to recognise the potential we are carrying and become a lot more focused and deliberate in our actions. Once we have identified our strengths, I feel that we should start looking for ways to plant those seeds in the areas where they will be the most useful and accessible (workplaces, schools, family homes, churches, communities…the list is a long one!). Imagine a world where we start using our talents to deliberately plant seeds of hope, self-belief, self-worth, peace, joy, or purpose into people. Or to actively change the status quo to make sure that those without a voice can be heard? Or to passionately make ways to level the playing field to make education, housing, employment etc. accessible to those who desperately need it and can’t break the cycle by themselves? Or to create new opportunities for people to get to know Jesus? …How encouraging, exciting and humbling to think that we could be planting positive seeds everywhere we go?!
The more sobering point I guess, is to ask ourselves…Are we using our fruits to ‘feed’ others and help them to grow, or just using them to enrich our own lives? As I sat in a crowded church service last week hearing many people speak of the way my friend Jason had left an impacting legacy (making sure his friends, family and colleagues knew they were valuable and loved not only by him but by God too) I was deeply inspired to make sure I used my time on earth wisely.
So when I saw that lonely apple tree, in the ‘wrong’ place, I knew God was giving me a visual reminder that if we aren’t enriching others, then what is the point?
Let’s use our ‘seeds’ to change our scenery and leave an accessible legacy of hope behind us.