The analogy of plants that bear fruit relating to the spiritual life is very appropriate. Jesus, Himself, uses the analogy in multiple parables and in His teachings. Yet, the analogy can be very hard to understand in our fast-paced technological world. In today’s society, we demand fast results, we expect all of our questions to be answered, and we try to control the world around us. In our desire to advance in technology and monetary gain, we have lost the patience necessary to understand the slow growth of the spiritual life. This loss of patience paired with a focus on material comfort over spiritual depth has led to a crisis of the interior life. All one has to do is check the recent statistics on mental health to know that this is true. 

For a plant to grow, it has to be planted in prime soil. The ground has to be nurtured and prepared in order to receive the seed. In the same way, if someone would like to advance in the spiritual life, they must have the correct environment. All things detrimental to a relationship with God must be cleared away, no matter how much we may find pleasure in them. In addition, the plant has to be receptive to water and sunlight for nourishment. It cannot control when the nourishment will come, but needs to be ready for when it does come and resilient when nourishment is delayed. In the same way, the spiritual life is full of consolations and desolations; of joyful ease and arduous refinement. Our souls must be ready to receive both, and not run from whatever God is using to form us for eternity whether it be a gift or trial.

When many plants grow, we see that they face the sun. In the same way, we are to set our minds on things that are above rather than things that are below (Colossians 3:2). Yet, when a plant bears fruit, it is weighed down back to earth until it releases the fruit. The fruit that is left behind is either to nourish the soil for other plants to grow, or to feed other plants and animals directly. After the weight of the fruit is released, the plant is lifted back up to the sun. In the same way, the fruit that we bear in the spiritual life is meant to be given away, whether it prepares others for spiritual growth, or it nourishes them directly.  Once our fruits are given away, we are drawn closer to the one who enabled us to bear fruit in our spiritual life. 

Finally, and possibly the most important correlation between plant growth and spiritual life is that both grow in silence. The plant grows slowly and silently without drawing attention to itself. In the same way, the best arena for our soul to fall in love with our Creator is silence. This is not just a noiseless silence, it is a silence of the soul; a stillness. One that renders the soul docile to the love of the Father, while humbly growing in His presence. With the noise, busyness, and vast entertainment that is available in the modern world, a still soul is a rare commodity. It takes sacrifice of things that we enjoy to sit in the presence of a greater good; the Greatest Good. This is what transforms a relationship with God from a dutiful servant consistently doing their Master’s will, to a loving son or daughter who spends time with their father.

The ability to commune with God with our body and soul is one of the greatest gifts we have been given. Yet with our fallen nature and noisy world, it is a process of trial and error to turn our spirituality into a labor of love. The path, though narrow, is available to those who plant themselves in prime soil of the Word, accept the gifts and admonishments of the Father, and humbly bear fruit in the Spirit. If we take a moment to quiet our souls and watch the vegetative life that God created around us, a clue to the spiritual life can be given to those willing to accept the message.