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The Fruit-Bearing Tree

I stand at the granite surface of the kitchen island, chopping kielbasa into coins and feeding dry spaghetti noodles through each smoky disc for a dish in progress for dinner. A lone fly buzzes around, hoping for a taste of the meat, but I wave him away. I’m hacking the recipe from one of my 11-year-old’s favorite cookbooks in a manner that saves no time, but proportions smoked sausage and pasta noodles perfectly. Aiming my words at the smartphone balanced on my 32oz. green plastic tumbler, where I am recording an audio text to someone, I say something I have never said before: “My insecurity hurts you, but it’s not about you. It’s a deep-rooted weed. It’s a plant growing in the wrong place. God is helping me uproot it in this season, but it’s a messy process.”

The image of a diseased tree grows in my mind as we sit down to dinner and load really good pasta onto our plates.

After dinner—the only meal regularly staged at the kitchen table—I’m overwhelmed. That table is a lot after dinner.

The baby’s high chair is pushed to face the southeast corner of the table, between Mama and Daddy. Rather than watercolor smears on the dark wood together with notebooks, books, our butcher paper dispenser, Post-its, pencils, scissors, and succulent plants in glass containers, there are now crumbs, relish, corn kernels, and broccoli stems littering the table. The sun is going down and taking the rest of my energy with it. The pasta is mixed in with plates, silverware, and half-empty cans of soda and sparkling water, and it’s all sucking the life out of me. My husband is anxious and fretting for freedom too. He’s itching for respite after being on call all day with the double doors closed and monitors staring at him expectantly.

We stand at the table, trying to decide who will finish it all up in the next hour—Who will wash dishes and put things into Tupperware and scrape plates into the garbage and load the dishwasher and take out and replace trash bags? Who will be responsible for the baby? Who will run baths? Who will face the complaints and downcast expressions that inevitably follow the bedtime announcement?

I’m momentarily paralyzed. This happens every day. It’s no one’s fault, I tell myself. He’s working from home, not having a party. We’ve both been working our butts off. 

Abruptly, my mind turns back to my pre-dinner revelation. (SQUIRREL!)

“It’s the tree. We have to fix the tree!”

“What?” Hubby asks. To me, he looks totally confused. 

“Remember when that guy from the garden center said, ‘Make the tree healthy?’” I head back to the table to grab plates while he starts rinsing the dishes one-handed with the baby on his hip.

“Uh-huh…” 

“Remember? He said the way to deal with pests on a tree was making the tree better.”

“Yeah,” he says. 

I’m the tree!” As I say the words, I think of those who birthed insecurity in me—interactions with people and experiences that scattered their white dandelion seeds in my soil. They set my root ball in the ground crookedly; they didn’t feed me nutrients I needed. My roots didn’t take hold properly, and I blew with changing winds—different opinions and circumstances. I hear the guy from the garden center echoing in my head as I visualize myself, a sick tree, and I finally understand his counsel. Trees hold their food and water in their needles or leaves, so if they’re not protected from high winds, they lose the very things they need to be strong and beautiful. Like a tree weakened by disease, which attracts pests, I have been twisted and eaten up by insecurity. From sapling to mature tree, all my connections with this world have affected who I am today—my growth and my areas of struggle. 

“I get all worked up and scared over the kids and over my friends, but I feel like God is saying I don’t have control, and I never have. I can only be responsible for my responses. I have to make sure I’m well watered and fed and getting my nutrients from God instead of just worrying. Otherwise, faithlessness sprouts in me and casts a shadow on all my relationships. It affects them too.”

“Right,” Hubby said like it had been obvious to him before God enlightened me.

***

Insecurity is an old acquaintance. We first met when my best friend abruptly moved to Oregon, leaving me behind. Then, what felt like days later, we moved too. Life turned upside down for me. Fearing more loss and abandonment, I made relationships claustrophobic. I watched them closely and told them how they had to act.

Through the years, insecurity has done a number on my friendships. I have desired friends, valued loyalty, and feared abandonment in ways that border on illness, yet I grapple with doubt that any friendship can be a trustworthy environment for my heart. When insecurity led to pride, I let friends down too. 

I’ve seen it too many times. Connections falling apart, turning cold, mutating into distant civility. Gradually, confidantes have transformed until you’d think we never knew each other. Did I ever actually know her? Or did we just become other people, gradually growing to dislike what we once loved? 

I haven’t got it all figured out yet, but I’m beginning to realize: I tend to see every disagreement as an attack. Intellectually, emotionally, and rhetorically, I go to war. But insecurity cannot be my compass. Friendship won’t work if I always think I am right instead of trusting God’s wisdom. 

Likewise, being a good mama isn’t about trying to control every decision and belief and direction of my children (or, worse, believing that I can, as if I am the Almighty). I love them, but I may not engineer (or even modify) them. 

Motherhood and friendship—relationships and connections—become sick trees, if they’re overtaken by insecurity and fear. So, I’ve had to change my mind about how to do life in front of my children and how to bring God’s wisdom into my walk with friends. That’s repentance, and it’s the first step in the lengthy and dirty process of digging out unhealthy roots.

Insecurity doesn’t have to be an unrelenting wind that dries me out and makes me brittle. If I try to stand up to that wind alone, it will snap branches and create wounds leading to strange offshoots of emotion, behavior, and thought that diverge from the narrow path along which my Shepherd, Jesus is leading. Instead, I trust Jesus to be my Tree Guy, ridding the soil around me of creepers and other clinging plants. The Lord alone can pack the earth where I’m planted back into place and provide a guiding stake to straighten me out. 

The truth is, God makes all things new. 

I’m a fruit-bearing tree planted by God. As Lecrae said recently on Instagram, “Healthy trees don’t grow overnight. Neither do healthy people.” The spreading fungi of insecurity deeply influenced my mind—my perception—as I went through hard experiences and listened to mean words. The messages I received are just as real to me now as ever—the past isn’t the past; it’s now. However, I don’t have to drink in that insecurity. I can let God uproot lies and plant truth instead. I do that by changing my mind about who I believe—whether I will dig out the invading roots of insecurity by believing God instead. If I let God keep pulling up the thistles and dandelions and wild clover in the soil of my soul, maybe the evidence of Christ’s transformation will blossom more freely.


Jay Jones is a writer, a mama, and an audio editor for Kindred Mom. God has changed each goal Jay has ever had, chiefly those concerning her relationships and writing. If it is part of her life, she wants it to please Him. Self-taught in many ways, she is always looking to make connections and find ways to improve her brain, her blog, and her brood (ages 2 to 13 years). Married since 2004 to her husband, Taylor, she’s been tied to her college sweetheart for nearly a quarter-century. Together, they raise their 4 children in the Chicago suburbs, where they enjoy pursuing creativity in the midst of the daily grind. Whether it’s writing screenplays, gardening, or gaming, Jay’s family is usually cultivating something. As a mama to both teens and toddlers, Jay is passionate about instilling deep, identity-forming truths in her children. Her other interests include: encouraging others, reading when she can, and learning what she can about where the mind-brain-body-reality intersects with Biblical perspective. You can find some of her musings on her blog at and on Instagram.


 

 

 

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