a lesson in the leaves
A few years back, a friend gave me a fig tree as a gift. She told me to plant it in a large pot, put it in full sun and leave it outside all summer with regular watering. But, when it starts to get cold, I need to bring it inside. Fig trees are not particularly fond of the Midwest climate where I live so, about mid-October, when it starts to get down to freezing at night, I bring my tree inside.
a time for slowing down
When I pull the plant indoors, the tree is still full of leaves; gorgeous and green. However, after about a week inside away from the sun, the leaves start to turn brown and fall off.
I was told that I needed to put my plant in a dark, cool spot for the winter. So, it hangs out in a closet with no windows during that time. At this point in the season, all of the leaves have fallen off and its bare branches make it look dead. I water it about once a week, but otherwise it sits alone in the dark.
a time to awaken
But, in late March, a beautiful thing begins to happen. The tree, resting in the dark all alone, starts to produce leaves.
One morning, I will walk by and notice small, little green sprouts starting to appear on the tips of the branches. It continues to sprout leaves and about a month later, when the Midwest temps are above freezing at night, the fig tree makes its appearance outside once again. A few months after that, I get a harvest of figs.
the lesson in the fig tree
I love the lesson I am reminded of every year when this happens. Are there times that we think we’ve got it all under control, things are buzzing along fine, and we see no need to change our pace and then – bam! – our life suddenly switches gears? We go from 100mph to 0 faster than we can blink.
We sit there stunned, wondering why this happened. We thought it was all going great and it was all under control! We were just like that fig tree in October, green and fully leafed out in all our glory.
But we didn’t know about the frost coming that could kill us. We didn’t know about the winter and that going at the pace we were going, we were bound to burn out.
This dark, cold winter we were placed in? Perhaps it’s a period of rest. It’s a time for us to take a deep breath from what we thought was our best life in order to be prepared for the good that is coming.
If the fig tree didn’t have it’s winter rest, safe in the dark room, it wouldn’t have the energy to produce those delicious figs come August. If you are in this season of waiting right now, how can you use it to build up your resources and to take an intentional rest?
fig tree and the resurrection
I also love the symbolism of the resurrection that this fig tree gives us.
This tree looks dead. The branches are bare and it doesn’t look like it will ever bear fruit, let alone leaves, again. It sits in the dark and if I didn’t know about it’s ability to come alive from the dark closet, I would have given up all hope.
But, despite it’s dead-looking condition and it’s dark climate, it comes alive nonetheless.
Jesus’ followers felt this on a grander scale.
Their King had been crucified. They had such hopes for the future with Jesus in the lead and then it all came to a horrific end. Jesus was dead and was sealed in a dark, cold tomb.
But, death and a dark burial could not defeat the resurrection power of Jesus.
Just like the fig tree, coming alive, Jesus comes back from death. And we have this gift of resurrection power that can be alive in us, too.
We are dead in our sins, bound for the darkness of hell. But Jesus offers us life, resurrection from death, and hope of heaven.
He is not here; he has risen, just as he said. Come and see the place where he lay.
Matthew 28:6 (NIV)
Perhaps the sweetest words ever said.
I pray you are encouraged by the image of the fig tree. If you are in this period of Winter, take heart, Spring always comes. And if you are seeking something better than this life has to offer, you can find hope in the story of the fig tree and the gift of grace and resurrection power that Jesus offers to you today.