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Speaking to the Soul: The fig tree and boot camp

Speaking to the Soul: The fig tree and boot camp

by Linda Ryan


Luke 13:6-9

The story is one about a fig tree that for three years had not produced any fruit. The owner of the land on which the tree stood was a bit perturbed that this tree was still on his land drinking up water, taking up nutrients, and giving nothing in return. He demanded the gardener get rid of the tree, but the gardener, having maybe more faith (and good works too,) persuaded the owner to give it just one more year. If the tree bore no fruit, then the owner could cut the tree down and replace it.

I guess the man agreed to it, and that’s sort of where my mind went today. The appeal for patience and the suggestion of a little nurturing would be hopefully produce good results.

I have a young friend who, after years of wanting to be in the military and working very hard to get into it, is on his third day of boot camp.  It seems that boot camp was not exactly the way he had planned it would be. Most people who have had anyone who’s gone into the service or have done it themselves, know that boot camp is not a place for fun and games. Boot Camp is serious business. The military is serious business. They want to turn out people who know the rules, who can follow orders immediately without question, and who can perform to standard, which is very high.

When a young person goes to boot camp, that first week is probably the worst week of their life. I think my young friend is finding that out. He’s discouraged, a little depressed, unsure of himself, and, I am pretty sure, there’s more than a trace of homesickness in there as well. He had a dream about the military, but he opened the book in the middle instead of at the beginning. He saw the career that he would have, but he didn’t see what he had to go through to get to that place. It’s going to be an exercise in patience, something he will need to learn very quickly, like the owner in the story. 

Like the tree, my young friend wasn’t quite ready to bear fruit right off the bat. Some trees mature a bit more slowly than others, just like some young people at 18, 19, or 20, aren’t quite ready to be complete adults yet. Part of the job of boot camp, like part of the job of the gardener, is to provide nutrients, skills, nourishment, training, and education, to make them into proud young members of an elite group of protectors of our country who can march in perfect order, who know the purpose of the profession they’ve chosen, and even the risk they run of serious injury or even death. And this is supposed to be done in 6 to 8 weeks. At least the tree had a year.

What my young friend is being asked to do is to do what the owner was asked–to be patient and not expect immediate results. Change doesn’t happen overnight and radical changes, most especially radical changes, take a little endurance, but with patience, hard work, and nurturing, change does happen, from barren tree to fruit-bearing, from an adolescent to a part of a very difficult profession.  The gardener had faith in the tree. My friend’s family has faith in him, and so do I. He will bear fruit, if he persists and just goes along, doing what he needs to do to make his dream come true.

Here’s to the trees in our lives, the ones that grow wild in the forest, and the ones we have nurtured until they are ready to step out on their own. Here’s to patience  and loving care, and belief in the dreams that can and will come true.




Linda Ryan co-mentors 2 EfM Online groups and keeps the blog Jericho’s Daughter.  She lives in the Diocese of Arizona and is proud to be part of the Church of the Nativity in North Scottsdale.


Image: Fig from Wikimedia Commons public domain


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