The Other Side

How hard can it be to plant an apple tree? You dig a hole, and you stick in the tree. Well, not exactly. This spring my mother-in-law bought us two lovely apple trees for our yard. I promised my son with much sincerity that I would plant them, but, as with many things, time marched on, and on, and on. Eventually, the ravages of summer heat and drought converted the little parcel of ground where I intended to plant them into a veritable parking lot. I would not be daunted. My son watched as blow after frustrating, humiliating, debilitating blow struck the impenetrable earth. First an inch, then two, then three…and finally, we made two holes of sufficient size. With a complete absence of Spirit-filling and a few grumbling words under my breath to boot, I plopped the trees into their places and  scraped the football-sized clumps of unbroken earth back into the holes. They didn’t have a chance. My conscientious son watered the trees regularly, but the stream from the hose merely flowed around the adamantine mounds. One tree seemed committed to survival despite the odds, but our two toothy labs took care of him, too. Every time we look out the window, Kaye Dee and I have to laugh at the little stump that wanted to be an apple tree.

God, however, is not amused with hard ground. Ground which lies fallow eventually becomes hard, unyielding, and covered over with stubbly vegetation fit only for grazing. As believers, our lives are meant to be fruitful fields, yielding rich and ever-increasing harvests of the fruit of the Spirit from year to year. As I look back over the landscape of my life, it is with a sense of sorrow that I acknowledge that some portions have been fit for nothing but grazing. I was good for the religious platitude, but whose life was really being changed because of my influence? Whose soul was being saved  because of my words? Whose life was being rendered more fruitful because of my example?

“Let them be as the grass upon the housetops, which withereth before it growth up.”    Psalm 129:6

A wise planter breaks up his fallow ground with all the might he can muster, and lays a course for the seed to fall in the most fertile places. As stewards of the Lord’s fields, we must also take the harrow to the impenetrable soil around our hearts. We must take the Word as “a hammer, that breaketh the rock in pieces,” and let fly at every stubborn stone in our life-fields. The breaking process is a joint effort between us and God. He supplies the tools, and we deliver the blows. He reveals the rocks, and we dig them up. We search for Him, and He searches us.

“Search me, O God, and know my heart: try me, and know my thoughts: And see if there be any wicked way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting.” Psalm 139:23-24

It is so easy to object that with all the business of tending to life, there’s just not time to work over the ground of our lives through prayer, confession and repentance. But we will discover, on the other side, that it was God’s intent all along to “come and rain righteousness” on the soil of our lives and bring a glorious crop by His Spirit, if only we had cultivated a broken spirit to receive it.


Written by Colin Richards. This article was published in the Winter 2006 edition of The Beautiful Spirit magazine.
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