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This piece was originally found on E-Talk Newsletter
The instructions were clear and exact from the elderly gentleman who gave what looked to be a dead stick to my mother. He asked a question that seemed puzzling at first… “How big is your backyard?” Then he held out his hand and offered to her the twig wrapped in a bit of newspaper. “Plant it deep and water it often,” he said. Those were his complete instructions for what he trusted would grow into a fig tree. I laughed at the thought of this precious gift of a twig from his own fig tree being handed over to my mother (who is very definitely not a gardener!) and to be honest with you, I shook my head at the thoughts that it would ever show signs of life. But as my mother re-tells the story each season and I listen once again, we both realize that there was no question in the mind of the one who offered this gift to her. He had complete faith that this seemingly dead twig would grow into a fine fig tree that would need a lot of backyard.
But there is more to the story….more to the miracle of its survival and to the harvest of its fruit. The twig was offered at the onslaught of one of the worst droughts that seemed to hovered over the area. “Plant it deep and water it often.” It was difficult to be obedient to the instructions of this gift-giver in the face of mandatory water restrictions. No watering lawns. No washing cars. Use water sparingly indoors. In light of all of the restrictions, my mother still planted what looked to be just a dead twig. A bowl was kept in her sink that caught any water that would have gone down the drain. She washed her hands over the bowl. She emptied the juice from cans of vegetables into this bowl. Any saved liquid was carried out to water this little twig. In her obedience, she found many ways to water it often, as she was told to do. The twig began to show signs of life. Leaves sprouted. It grew taller. At the signs of its first fruits, my mother rejoiced. Now look at the tree! Beautiful. Strong. Filled with fruit that will most certainly be given to others.
There is truly much to be learned in this fig tree and that is why I don’t mind listening to the story of the tree’s beginnings once again. The words of the gift-giver tell it all, don’t they? “How big is your backyard” or perhaps better asked…”How big is your God?” This is a parable of faith… of “being sure of what we hope for, and certain of what we do not see.” (Hebrews 11:1). It is a lesson of trusting the One who is completely trustworthy and whose promises always accompany commands. It is a reminder that obedience to God often includes times of testing… but obedience always produces great fruit.
Think on these words of the gift-giver. “How big is your backyard? (How big is your God?) Plant deep and water often.” May you see in this week, God’s great certainties in what once seemed your very small possibilities. And may you be reminded that in your faith, trust and obedience, you will most certainly see the promises of God come to fruition. “Plant deep, water often…and bear fruit!”
Anna Murdock is a writer of devotionals known as “View from the Pew” that now reach into all 50 states and 20 countries (www.pewponderings.blogspot.com). An observer of people and of God’s grace and presence made visible through others, Anna’s written accounts of “God-sightings” are often used as sermon illustrations by pastors in several denominations not only in the US, but also in Canada, England and Australia
Anna’s writings have opened the door for opportunities to speak within her own church and other churches in the Statesville, North Carolina area as well as for the United Methodist Women’s Annual Prayer Breakfast for the Statesville District in 2011 and the Presbyterian Women’s Annual Prayer Breakfast in High Point, NC in 2013.
Anna is a Lay Servant and life-long member of Broad Street United Methodist Church in Statesville, NC. She currently lives and works in High Point, NC.