Together, Our Lives Bear Fruit
Mandy and I just spent a few days with some of our life-long friends. We met Nathan and Trish when we were first married. They had just moved to Indianapolis and found their way to the church Mandy and I had been attending our whole lives. Mandy and Trish became fast friends, and Nathan and I became the odd couple of sorts.
Nathan was new to the faith at the time, a voracious reader and hungry to know Christ. I was the squeaky-clean church kid who grew up attending church every time it was open and never knew a day outside of my evangelical bubble. We were good for each other, pursuing the same Savior from two very different starting points. Our shared love for music and shared passion to know Jesus connected us deeply.
That friendship turned into a long season of leading worship together, writing songs together, recording music together, raising our families together, and ultimately planting and pastoring a church together.
Even though they live in Georgia now and we haven’t worked together in an official capacity for a long time, whenever we are with Nathan and Trish, beautiful things come out of our lives that don’t emerge anywhere else. It’s the way God’s Kingdom works. Together, our lives bear fruit.
Unlocking Our Full Identity
It reminds me of a story CS Lewis tells in The Four Loves. The Inklings were a literary discussion group at Oxford University in the 1930s and 40s. C.S. Lewis and J.R.R. Tolkien are the group’s most well-known members, but the Inklings were a group of friends who built deep relationships around their common passion for literature.
When one of the regular members, Charles Williams ,unexpectedly died, Lewis penned the following insights into the multi-faceted power of their friendship:
“In each of my friends there is something that only some other friend can fully bring out. By myself I am not large enough to call the whole man into activity; I want other lights than my own to show all his facets. Now that Charles is dead, I shall never again see Ronald’s [Tolkien’s] reaction to a specifically Charles joke.
Far from having more of Ronald, having him ‘to myself’ now that Charles is away, I have less of Ronald. Hence true Friendship is the least jealous of loves. Two friends delight to be joined by a third, and three by a fourth, if only the newcomer is qualified to become a real friend. They can then say, as the blessed souls say in Dante, ‘Here comes one who will augment our loves.’”CS Lewis
That is true of you and me as well. When Mandy is with Trish, there is a beautiful part of her that even I can only see through that friendship. Being physically present with Trish draws a very specific beauty out of my wife’s personality. When I am with Nathan, certain God-made aspects of my identity are illuminated. Together, our lives bear fruit.
The Secret Of The Fruit Tree
My friend Bill taught me a fascinating science lesson recently. About 5 years ago, he planted a tree in his backyard. He and the family came to love the tree – it bloomed deep purple leaves and tiny pink flowers every season. Just this summer, Bill and his 12 year old son were in the backyard and noticed what seemed to be fruit on the tree.
This really caught Bill off guard, because in the five years they had this tree, it had never once borne fruit. So, you know, like every wise man who has gone before him, Bill walked up to his favorite tree, pulled a piece of this unknown fruit from the branch, and stuck it in his mouth.
“This tastes like a plum,” he said to his son.
And then like every good father who has gone before him, Bill picked another piece of this unknown fruit off the tree and stuck it in his son’s mouth. His son agreed, it had to be a plum.
So they proceeded to eat five or six more before deciding they should probably go inside and tell mom they were eating unknown fruit off the tree in the backyard that had never borne fruit before! You can imagine how that conversation went.
They uploaded a picture of the tree to a gardening app. Sure enough, this family favorite tree was a plum tree! How did they not know? Why had it never produced fruit before? Why did it just start now? That’s when Bill learned something new about botany.
Bill’s family was so fond of that tree that a few months earlier they went out and bought another one. They planted it just a few feet away from the first. And here’s the epiphany:
Fruit trees that are planted alone don’t bear fruit!
They need at least one additional tree so that they can pollinate one another. Alone, the original tree could not bear fruit. But together, they couldn’t help but bear fruit! As soon as the second tree was planted, they began to draw beautiful things out of one another as they were designed by God to do! Together, our lives bear fruit!
Made For One Another
Scripture tells us that every human being is made in the image of God, but none of us individually reflect God completely on our own. We were made to need each other. We were made to draw out and benefit from the gifts inside of one another that ultimately bring glory to God.
“We are many parts of one body, and we all belong to each other.” (Romans 12:5)
This is true of families and friendships. It’s true of the Church. But redeemed by the Gospel, this can even be true of the marketplace as well. At its root, the marketplace is the sacred intertwining of human lives in mutual service to one another. It’s about image-bearers leveraging their unique makeup and God-given giftings to meet a need in other image bearers’ lives.
The marketplace is about mutual service, interdependence, people serving and adding value to one another. We draw things out of each other’s lives that would never emerge on their own.
Since Genesis 3, we’ve been seduced by the allure of autonomy. We’re convinced we will finally be happy when we’re free from accountability to God and the demands, inconveniences, and potential wounds that always happen when we’re in proximity with other people.
But our lives will be richer, our ministries more robust, our businesses more successful, when we realize we were made for each other. The fullness of who we are blooms through connection – first with God, and then with one another. It’s together that we bear fruit.