Like the Parable of the Barren Fig Tree, we sometimes need manure so that we can bear fruit again. Many times, we can’t see our own bubbles, the structures and patterns in which we have enclosed ourselves until someone else shows us. For these and many other reasons, we exist within communities. We can help each other, even when we can’t see that we need help.
We all need food, water, shelter, and safety. The absence of these in my childhood deeply impacted my own formation and sense of self. I was raised in an environment where most of these needs weren’t provided and had to be self-supplied, resulting in a disconnect between my basic and psychological needs. It became hard for me to trust my feelings and develop relationships. Like the barren tree, I had nothing to give because it didn’t serve my need to survive.
The vineyard owner dismisses the fig tree’s worth because of its lack of fruit. Yet the gardener advocates for the tree’s welfare by asking for one more year; not only that, he plans to give precious fertilizer to the barren plant. In this way, the fig tree was spared – given another year to become the fruitful tree it was meant to be.
Looking at this week’s reading from Exodus, I also wonder how I’d react if, in my youth, I had encountered a burning bush that said, “I have observed the misery of my people who are in Egypt; I have heard their cry on account of their taskmasters. Indeed, I know their sufferings, and I have come down to deliver them from the Egyptians, and to bring them up out of that land to a good and broad land, a land flowing with milk and honey.” My first response might have been to skeptically ask, “Am I one of those that he came down for?” I could see myself reacting as Moses did when he asked, “Who am I that I should go to Pharaoh, and bring the Israelites out of Egypt?” God replies, “I will be with you; and this shall be the sign for you that it is I who sent you.”
As a teenager, while I might not have been able to fully grasp these concepts of faith, acceptance, and love that are embedded within these verses. God was with me, patiently leading me to grow and move on from the suffering and survival to truly flourish. I wonder now if we truly understand this, especially when we commune with one another.
Love is difficult to understand, and the concept of God can often seem beyond comprehension. In my experience, when my social skills were trumped by the need to survive, the only love I could talk about was the love of a full belly and a good night’s sleep. My only way to practice self-care then was a prayer for another meal in the morning. That mindset, which in a way could seem too simplistic and raw to be true, is indeed very real to me and many others currently in similar situations. One way or another, we were all once a kid who could only understand things within his or her own bubble, rendering most things outside of it unimportant. Yet, just like the gardener’s care, patient and consistent love can act like a needle, busting our unseen bubbles.
This week, let nature teach you about spiritual life. Join our partners at St. Margaret’s House on April 13 for Garden Day from 9am to 12pm by signing up at Volunteer Hub.
Metha is the Operations and Logistics Coordinator for Trinity’s Brown Bag Lunch Ministry, where he oversees the multilingual ministry newsletter and develops creative and accessible programming for food security in our neighborhood. Born and raised in Puerto Rico, Metha attended Universidad Metropolitana in San Juan. He is passionate about reading and writing poetry, cooking for his friends and family, and exploring everywhere, on rollerblades.
Each Sunday in Lent, Trinity staff and community members are offering personal takes on the intersection of faith and social justice action. Check back each week for insights into how you can get inspired, involved, and make a difference this Lenten season—and beyond!
March 24 Readings: Exodus 3:1-15, Psalm 63:1-8, 1 Corinthians 10:1-13, Luke 13:1-9