The symbolism is powerful but, at the moment, I can’t quite wrap my hands around the personal application.
Sorry. You’re catching me in the middle of a thought. Let me back up.
I have fruit trees at my house. It might actually be an orchard, but I’m not sure how many you have to have before it qualifies as such. Either way, we have a total of 6 trees: 2 pear, 2 plum, and 2 apple. But that’s not really the question I’m struggling with (although if anyone knows the answer to the orchard issue please pass it along).
I also have this on my property.
If you can’t quite make out the picture, it’s an old water pump...the kind your grandparents might have had out in a field or in the yard if they were living with a well. We discovered it leaning up against a big maple tree -- discarded or forgotten, we’re not really sure. And it first, it just looked like the perfect, unintentional yard decoration for a rundown farm in need of some tender loving care. The kind of thing that makes you go, “Aww...how cute.”
And then I walked around the tree and discovered this…
And I full-on belly laughed.
That water pump had apparently been discarded or forgotten so long ago that, in the intervening years, there’d been enough time for the tree to grow around the pump handle and seemingly absorb the mechanism into the bark.
After the hilarity wore off...which, truth be told, it hasn’t because I crack up every time I see it...it got me thinking.
Here’s the real question I’ve been pondering over the last couple months as I think about these fruit trees and this pump handle…
What’s the difference between passivity and rest?
Here’s what I mean.
The fruit on the trees doesn’t strive to be there...it's just there. A natural outcome of being connected to the branch. And that water pump handle is clearly not exerting any effort of its own, and yet it’s become an integrated part of the structure of that maple. Outwardly, they’re both just as connected to a tree.
But the difference is obvious. One is growing. The other is stuck.
One is becoming what’s it supposed to be. The other is completely incapable of fulfilling its purpose.
Now, I promise you I’m not trying to make too much of a few fruit trees and some trash in my yard. But every time I look at them...and the pump handle is within 50 yards of a couple of the fruit trees...it makes me wonder.
“Am I the fruit or the water pump?”
Am I intentionally staying connected to something that helps me become what I’m supposed to become? Or am I just lounging?
Am I fighting to cling to something life-giving? Or am I being complacent, not recognizing that, if prolonged, my complacency will require monumental effort at a later date to get me “unstuck”?
They’re both connected to a tree.
They’re both, seemingly, just hanging out.
What’s the difference between passivity and rest?
I know the answer for the fruit and the water pump. But personally, I’m still working through that answer in the midst of a bit of a life inventory and I don’t have a nice, neat bow on this when it comes to my passions and hobbies, habits and coping mechanisms, relationships...are the wheels now spinning for you too?
Am I actively resting, fighting to cling to things that are life-giving without falling into the trap of performance? Or am I passive, avoiding the very challenges that would prove to be life-giving.
By way of example, I mentioned in the last post that I’ve been trying to get back into running this summer. I’ve gone 5 times...in the last 6 weeks. Not exactly setting the world on fire. But life’s been busy, and there have been legitimate demands on my time. And there have been moments in the midst of that where I felt like I just needed to collapse on the couch for the evening. And so while I haven’t actively chosen to avoid running, I also haven’t actively chosen to run. There’s plenty of time in the weeks and months to come to make a change, but in the interim...
Passive or resting? How long before my body turns into its own version of the water pump...suffering the effects of being discarded or forgotten?
How about in the category of relationships? Another easy example -- since we moved in March, I’ve really wanted to go meet and meaningfully connect with some of our new neighbors. To have that classic, rural network of front-porch visitors and tractor buddies.
But…(all of the same conditions from the last paragraph). Again, there’s plenty of time in the weeks and months to come, but…
Passive or resting? How long before I’ve become comfortable in my little hermitage and continue to default to seclusion?
Passivity or resting?
I don’t know the answer yet. But I’m intentionally asking the question now, and a wise man once told me that the secret to moving from where you are to where you want to be is largely determined by the questions you ask.
And it just now occurs to me that asking questions is kind of like the fruit.
And I’m allowing the answers to come in their time.
I’m not striving. And I’m not going passive, assuming that things will never change.
And much like the fruit...which I’ve been waiting to see ripen for the last couple months...this, too, is a process of days and weeks and months and years.
It turns out you can’t definitively end a blog post about something in process. So for today, I’ll return to my questions of “fruit or water pump?” and “passivity or rest?”.
And in time I’ll hopefully see the fulfillment of the waiting.
Or someone’ll have to come dig me out of a tree.