The slick website invited me to take a productivity assessment. This should be interesting, I thought, scanning the piles of papers, laundry and dishes stacked around me. Let’s see how productive I am.
Ten minutes later, I had my answer. Turns out I’m “not quite a crisis.” I laughed ruefully. Yep, that sounded about right.
Seems like I’m flying by the seat of my pants most days. I check items off my lists, but not as often as I add others – that is, the ones I can remember. I actually write on those lists to “keep up” – a reminder to keep moving so that I keep my head above water. Longer-term goals? Ha. I find myself marveling at ads offering to help me design a successful platform, automate my professional growth, build a portfolio, quadruple my retirement plan, and get 1000 email subscribers in the next 30 days.
Just getting the craft closet cleaned out would be a major win. It’s been on the to-do list for, oh, about three years.
So, yea, not too productive. Also, not a crisis. So there’s that.
There’s a good reason for my lack of “productivity,” I thought as I scooped cups from the counter and fished for a forgotten sock under the couch. I stood up and glanced at my little tribe playing the backyard. Actually, six good reasons.
But that’s ok. Because God has another gauge for us. It’s a bit messier, maybe, and harder to measure, but for all that, it’s definitely much more lasting. God doesn’t desire our productivity. He wants us to be, calls us to be – fruitful.
“You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you that you should go and bear fruit and that your fruit should abide; so that whatever you ask the Father in my name, he may give it to you.” – John 15:16
Fruit bearing is not glamorous. It’s long and tedious, involves a lot of tilling, planting, watering, watching, hoping, defending and a whole lot of waiting. A lot of the work, much of the important work, is done under the ground, in silent hidden places we cannot see. Most of the time, it doesn’t look – or feel – productive. We toil in the Lord’s vineyard, bringing his love, his life, his wisdom, his Word, pouring it out onto soil sometimes thirsty and receptive, sometimes rocky and ungrateful. And many seasons it feels that the ground swallows up our efforts and we are left spent and empty.
But we not only work in the vineyard. We are vines, too. And we are grafted onto a True Vine which pulses with eternity and with the sap of the Holy Spirit. We draw strength by clinging to Jesus in prayer and sacrament and remaining rooted in His Church. All of our fruit owes its life to this life-giving Vine. For, it’s true, “the branch cannot bear fruit by itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in me.” (Jn 15:4) In him, we cannot help but bear fruit. The dry seasons are there – maybe as part of our necessary pruning – for while the fruitless branches are cut away completely, even the fruitful ones must be trimmed back in order to keep them producing that perfect fruit of the heavenly variety. (Jn 15:2)
In fact, our most painful times will be, in the end, our most fruitful. When we are pressed under the weight of suffering and remain united to Him, the oil and the wine flow freely. That is when the fruit gives itself over to be consumed in Love.
Still sometimes, we’d like to conquer the world for Christ. Sometimes maybe we’d just like to have clean counters. But then we remember that the season is ripe for planting, so we get on our knees to bandage a toe or tie a shoe or scrub a floor or beg for strength, and we carry on with the little small sacrifices that work together to swell those seeds into living, growing, fruit-bearing plants of their own.
And then our little ones smile in their carseat, or fold their sticky hands in prayer, and we see the blossoms burst open into the sun. Not productive by the world’s standards, but souls alive in Christ will remain long after platforms crumble, careers fade, and retirement plans are spent. Fruit that abides. And by this, Jesus says, “my Father is glorified.” (Jn 15:8)
So we rise, take up our spades and break ground again, to-do lists trailing behind.
“The fruit that endures is therefore all that we have sown in human souls: love, knowledge, a gesture capable of touching hearts, words that open the soul to joy in the Lord.” – Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger