March 11, 2007

Welcome to the Church of the Second Chance

Closing excerpt from today's Gospel reading:
And he told them this parable:
“There once was a person who had a fig tree planted in his orchard,
and when he came in search of fruit on it but found none,
he said to the gardener,
‘For three years now I have come in search of fruit on this fig tree
but have found none.
So cut it down.
Why should it exhaust the soil?’
He said to him in reply,
‘Sir, leave it for this year also,
and I shall cultivate the ground around it and fertilize it;
it may bear fruit in the future.
If not you can cut it down.’”

I am not a patient person. Most of us aren't. I have found that I have no more patience for people I love than I do for the coffee I'm reheating in the microwave — I want it to be to my liking RIGHT NOW. A minute-and-a-half is just too long. And in the case of relationships, the thought of hours, weeks, days, even years is a daunting one. But just when I am about to throw in the towel on a situation that I don't feel fulfilled by, I am moved by this reading to continue cultivating, and to reach down deep for more patience. This is clearly one of those timely gospel readings that addressed the exact problem that I've been struggling with -- and comes as an answer to a prayer to me this morning.
Our God is the God of the Second Chance, the Third Chance, even the Fourth Chance. Only when the tree does not bear any fruit after more fertilizer, more cultivation, will our God acquiesse and "cut it down." But I'm betting that even next year, when the tree still doesn't bear fruit, God as the gardener will put forth the same argument. There is still hope for this tree. We just need to work harder and be patient.
This is not to say that we should not have boundaries -- on the contrary. God will let nature take its course when it becomes more than obvious that the tree is barren. Perhaps God has a special relationship with the tree -- and knows that it wants to be cultivated, loved, fertilized — and to produce fruit. You can almost hear the tree in this reading saying "please don't give up on me yet."
So if you're asking for a second, third or fourth chance from me today, you're in luck. Let patience cultivate love and let the fruit of spring bloom new.

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