Around 14 years ago, a friend gave me an African violet for my birthday. I kept her at work, and we named her Violet. Fast forward some years, and Violet was dying. She had stopped producing flowers, and her leaves were turning brown. I was ready to let her give up the ghost because I thought it was the end. Truthfully, she had lasted longer than I thought she would because I do not have a green thumb. Another friend looked at her, and he offered to take her home with him. Months later, he brought Violet back to me, and she was alive and thriving. As a matter of fact, at the time I am writing this article, she is in bloom.
I was amazed, and I asked him what he did. If you are a gardener, you can probably guess what he did. He replanted her with new soil. He chose soil that contained extra nutrients. He pruned away the dead leaves. He placed her in direct sunlight, and he watered her as needed (I had been over-watering her). He brought her back from the brink of death by creating an environment for her to thrive in, and he gave me clear instructions on how to care for her in the future. As a person without a green thumb, it never occurred to me to change her environment (the soil). I had been doing everything else (but watering too much).
The story of Violet reminds me of the Parable of the Barren Fig Tree that is found in Luke 13:6-9. Like me, the owner of the vineyard was ready to cut the fig tree because it had not produced fruit for three years. But the vinedresser (gardener), who was skilled at caring for plants, offered to give the tree extra care. The gardener was going to do all he could do to make the barren fig tree thrive and bear fruit.
In the parable, the owner represents God and the gardener represents Jesus. The number three is significant. In the Old Testament (Leviticus), there is a scripture that forbade eating fruit from a tree during its first three years. In the fourth year, the fruit would have been given as an offering to God. It was not until the fifth year that the fruit could be eaten.
This brings me to a conundrum in life. How do you know if something is dead versus something that just needs a little bit of extra care to bear fruit or something that needs to be offered up to God for another season?
In this season of my journey, my goal is to position areas of my life (from relationships to job to goals) in such a manner that they are in the best environment to thrive. This may mean giving extra care. To follow the violet analogy, it would be watering and fertilizing. In life, it would be giving my time and energy. If after extra care and attention, there is still no fruit, then it would be a clear sign that something is dead, and it is time to remove the dead thing from my life.
My focus will be to cultivate all that is alive and thriving. Life is precious, and it is time to focus on cultivating relationships and endeavors that will bear fruit. If things are dead, they need to be removed. I invite you to join me in removing the dead things.