There are some days when I feel like the fig tree that Jesus cursed in Mark 11.
The next day as they were leaving Bethany, Jesus was hungry. Seeing in the distance a fig tree in leaf, he went to find out if it had any fruit. When he reached it, he found nothing but leaves, because it was not the season for figs. Then he said to the tree, "May no one ever eat fruit from you again." And his disciples heard him say it.
We labor as a church, often not very hard, and seemingly spend an eternity in "not the season for figs." And it gets discouraging. In a small church, it's easy to see the people who take their faith seriously and those who have other reasons for filling a pew on Sunday morning. I know there are people who are living as witnesses for Christ and some who are unafraid to speak out about "the hope they have" but it has been so long since fig season.
About three years ago, a woman showed up one Sunday. She had visited our church occasionally while growing up some twenty years earlier. She wanted to give her life to Christ, and I prayed with her, talked with her and assigned her a mature member to work with over the next two weeks. Two weeks later she had disappeared off the face of the earth, skipping meetings and finally moving from her apartment, leaving no forwarding address. The fig was probably made of wax.
It's been a long fruitless period. Members are maturing in their faith. We've reached out to a bunch of people in the name of Christ. But no fruit.
Yesterday my wife noticed a man walking around the outside of our church building just before donut time. "Get out there and see who it is, Pastor," she scolded me. She either thought this was a case someone so spiritually starved they couldn't make it to the doors or that someone was hiding outside, ready to bolt through the doors at offering time and escape with the plates.
When I found the man outside, he was sitting on a bench, looking at a Bible. It was beginning to rain, so I asked him to come in. He said the rain wasn't so bad -- that he was being washed anyway. But he came in and sat down to talk with me.
In the five or six years since his father had passed away, this man had experienced all sorts of pain... much of it his own fault. But over the past few months, he has been on the road back to God. Much of that progress has been accomplished with the help of one of our members. On Friday he accepted Christ. On Sunday he came out to join his friend at church. It was a fitting day to come back to church; Father's Day. It was losing his earthly father that had sent him spiraling into depression. It was finding his heavenly Father which has given him hope.
Finally, we have seen a fig.
There are so many more we've been watering and nurturing. Here's to hoping for an entire bushel in the near future!
It's so hard to be patient when you know how much is riding on each decision.