OUR neighbor had two tall, spreading apple trees. After their brilliant floral display in the spring, the fruit that formed was left to fall to the ground and rot. It seemed like such a waste. I asked our neighbor if she would mind if we picked some of the apples for ourselves. "Go ahead, she said wryly, "but you may not like the taste of them.
She was right. The apples we plucked from the branches were small and bitter. The reason? The branches were so dense and full that little sunlight reached the fruit. An attentive gardener would have pruned methodically to allow sunlight to mature and ripen the crop.
Sometimes our lives are like those trees--undisciplined and unfruitful. Maybe we've progressed haphazardly, without direction. Or maybe we've stopped being productive as a result of cramped and dense thinking.
The best way to bring renewal to our lives is to bring them under the care of Christ. In his Sermon on the Mount, found in the Bible in Matthew, Christ Jesus outlined a way of life that leads to more productive living. He taught the importance of unselfed love, purity, humility, and forgiveness. The essence of life, according to the Master, is found in loving God wholeheartedly and in living peaceably with our fellowman. "Every good tree, he pointed out, "bringeth forth good fruit.
The Science of Christ--Christian Science--shows us that it's possible and even natural for us to uphold the Christian values that bring spiritual light into our lives. This Science, discovered and founded by Mary Baker Eddy, explains that man is God's spiritual offspring, wholly good. It's God's purpose that we live abundant and productive lives.
If we sometimes find that it's a struggle to choose good over evil (compassion, for instance, over callousness), this indicates that we've temporarily lost sight of our spiritual perfection as the man of God's creating. But we don't need to accept the belief that we're mortals, separated from God and left to our own devices. Through prayer, we can regain an accurate understanding of ourselves as in reality the image of God, divine Love. This prayer is a humble, earnest communion with God, through which w e actually feel the presence of the Holy Spirit. Acknowledging in prayer the allness of God, we discern more of man's goodness as His creation.
This is not to underestimate the hard work, and even sacrifice, that progress in Christian discipleship requires of us. Sometimes, as we strive to obey Jesus' teachings, we find that we need to relinquish, for example, a long-held opinion. Giving up such ingrained patterns of thought, while necessary, may not always be easy. As Mrs. Eddy writes in Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures: "Few understand or adhere to Jesus' divine precepts for living and healing. Why? Because his precepts require th e disciple to cut off the right hand and pluck out the right eye,--that is, to set aside even the most cherished beliefs and practices, to leave all for Christ.
As we accept the discipline of Christ, however, we find greater freedom, joy, and usefulness. Burdens begin to lighten. We lose some of the fear, resentment, pride, stubbornness, that have slowed our growth Godward. To live in obedience to God and in harmony with our fellowman is not to lose anything good. What is pruned away from our lives is all that is not good, and this pruning frees us to flourish in the light of Christ.