“If someone tries to do something good in the place where he lives but fails to complete it, he should not think that he will accomplish it elsewhere. It is not the place that produces success, but faith and a firm will. A tree which is often transplanted does not bear fruit.”
Ever long for greener grass? Maybe this is a part of the human condition. Or, maybe this is a first-world problem created by the proliferation of options. It is certainly a condition of my own wandering heart, one that I’m not proud of.
While doing some reading in a church history text I’ve had in my library for a while (but not read through), I encountered a new name in church history, Euthymius. The history text gave small, tantalizing details, so I decided to due further research. I found a more detailed bio on him on the website listed above. Within that biography was the above statement. I read it and was floored. I’ve transplanted a lot, and have often (wrongly) thought a move would be just the thing to get the good work going.
Yet, only in planting deep roots will a tree flourish and produce good fruit. Unnecessary changes may have temporary benefit, but often prove foolish.
About a year ago, there was an area of my yard that I cleaned out in preparation for plants. One of the first plants that I planted there was an azalea that I moved from another, less desirable part of the yard. Now, let it be known the plant was living where it was, but I thought this new location would be better for it. . . I’m sure you have guessed now what happened to said plant with all the past tense verbs . .
I finally decided to uproot it and throw it away. It didn’t make it. I moved it to a new place when the plant didn’t need it. And, it died.
This is true with our souls, too.
Fruit only comes after labor and time are given to plants. Family, work, and relationships all require that kind of labor and time. Sure, we use St. Paul as an example of Christian work, but isn’t he an exception to the vast majority of Christian tradition?
Further, like Euthymius says, we often think the external conditions are what matter most. The soil isn’t right, or the climate is unhelpful. Euthymius offers an excellent corrective to such a prideful concept. Euthyimus says to look inward! In the Christian life, the issue is certainly not climate, or soil conditions, job, or house, etc. (Convicted!) The issue is us. This issue is our faith and firm will.
If you are like me, you are prone to trust your own abilities. I do. My former students could probably speak to my own faith in my own intellectual tradition (Again, forgive me students!!!) How foolish! Euthymius would say the lack of fruit in those classroom years had nothing to do with the soil, only the farmer.
I would argue the same is true for all of us. The longing for excitement and change is powerful. The cult of novelty is powerful, and its’ worship is enticing. Yet, running contrary to the way of the world is the way of Christ. Yes, he had an itinerant ministry when public, yet without ceasing he poured into twelve men. He wasn’t looking to get them trained and get them gone. He was patient with his disciples. He was full of faith and firm will.
So, when you (Self) are tempted to go to the greener grass, remember the issue is not the soil or climate, it’s you, Self. Your faith in God to accomplish what he will in and through you, and your own firm will (come whatever may) is the real issue. There is no greener grass!
“A tree often transplanted does not bear fruit.” Euthymius
*Image from public domain.