Autumn is my favorite time of year, the magnificent amber, crimson and gold show the glory of God’s creation and I am reminded of His goodness. However autumn is coming to an end in North Iowa… the wind coming from the west/northwest has a bite to it. The air is colder with the damp pungent smell of turned earth and dried leaves. The sky is deep blue with clouds tinged red beneath heavy gray, giving immense beauty to the harvested countryside while reminding me that winter coming on.
Personally, I am not a typical winter enthusiast. I don’t relish snow or participate in cold, snowy adventures building snowmen or flying down hills on planks of wood. I’m more the “curl up by the fire” sort of person. I love to wrap myself in a cocoon of blankets with a good book. I’m half Italian; my mother’s family all first generation immigrants from that temperate Mediterranean country so I often think I was mistakenly transplanted in life… I was really supposed to live only in a warm climate. But obviously that was never God’s plan for my life… I’ve spent the vast majority of my life in snowy, cold climates with the firm and clear direction from the Lord to bloom where I am planted. “But God,” I say, “I’m not supposed to be here… in this place of frigid temperatures and biting winds. How will I survive?”
- God showed me a fig tree…
Several years ago Steve and I went to visit my Aunt and Uncle in Brooklyn, NY. It was several days of hearty Italian meals and loud, boisterous crowds of extended family. Compared to our quiet, subdued lifestyle we felt transplanted to another world while we were there. One morning we rose to find my Uncle Paul outside in the back yard wrapping heavy brown burlap around a tree. He cocooned the tree from bottom to top, gently bending the branches upwards as he went. Then, he twinned rope around the now skinny tree and tied it off at the top. What was he doing? What kind of tree was that?
My uncle was wrapping a fig tree for the winter. Fig trees grow in the Mediterranean… especially Italy. My uncle had imported his prized tree from Italy and bragged about the delicious fruit he harvested from it. But for it to survive a New York winter, he wrapped it up and kept it protected… warm and dry. He told us that he would leave it wrapped up like that deep into the spring, until the ground and air temperature actually made the tree seem to sweat in its winter coat. When he removes the wrapping, he told us there would already be fruit on the branches… ready to ripen through the summer, sweet and moist.
- God created us for the garden… we live in the world
God’s perfect plan for us was to live in the garden… walking beside Him in His sweet, fragrant presence. Always cared for… always secure. His plan was lost… but His care and provision for each one of us is still exactly what we need to thrive. We are like the fig tree in my uncle’s backyard… meant to live one place but transplanted to another. In summer… when the sun is shining and the air is hot and humid we feel right at home. Winter can be a different story…
- God wraps us up…
Winter can be tough… sometimes even devastating. A fig tree left unprotected in a frigid climate will surely die. But wrapped in burlap, secured with rope and the fig tree not only survives, it thrives. So it is the same with us. Seasons change in our lives as well. The warmth of summer when we are excited about what God is doing in our lives and anxious to share his love and grace to our loved ones, friends and co-workers is a wonderful time. But when the tough times come… when struggles and doubts blow us about like dried leaves it is time to recognize that we need to draw back and wrap ourselves against winter.
- Wrapped in the Word and Prayer
When it turns cold… I love to wrap myself in a cocoon of blankets with a good book. There is no book more important in my life than the Bible. God’s word gently bends my barren thoughts and pushes them towards Him. When I’m sure I’m right he shows me that my way of thinking will leave me exposed to the elements… sure to be stung with frost and beaten by the wind. At times the Lord wraps me in His arms, comforting the hurt and encouraging me to trust… Only He can bring that kind of warmth in the dead of winter. God’s word teaches, corrects and trains me as I am wrapped against the onslaught of life. I share my heart with Him in prayer and He listens… then responds, encouraging me to return time and time again to cocoon myself in His word.
- Emerging to bear fruit…
Amazingly a winter wrapped fig tree, while wrapped in the burlap, has grown new leaves and comes out of the wrapping with fruit already on it. Most of the work to produce happens while it is in its winter cocoon. A tree that was intended for mild, sunny days is not hindered or defeated by its harsh environment. Nor are we… our time wrapped in the presence of God will produce in us the fruit of the Spirit of God… that is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. We emerge into our life, our family, or jobs… transformed by the renewing of our mind and hearts… bearing fruit.
The fig tree doesn’t live its entire life in a cocoon… it is meant to live in my Uncle’s backyard. It provides figs and also shades the patio and gives refuge for the many birds that visit his feeders. We don’t live our lives constantly in a cocoon. We are meant for this world… bringing kindness to our neighbors, a listening ear to the hurting, lending a hand where it is needed. We are to be like the Mediterranean fig tree growing in Brooklyn New York… in this world but not of it… thriving in our environment for the glory of God and His Son Jesus.
Father God, thank you for the warm, sunny days of my life when I breeze through life full of joy and peace. Thank you also for the change of seasons… and the opportunity those changes bring. In the cold and blustery times in my life you are there Lord… wrapping my in your love, grace and wisdom. I will seek you in your Word and find you when I seek you with all my heat. I will submit to your bending and wrapping me Father… so the fruit of Your Spirit will be produced.
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