“People do not seem to realize that their opinion of the world is also a true confession of their character” –Ralph Waldo Emerson
I’ve only lived on this earth for 22 years. That used to sound like such an old age. When I was a teenager I had expected to have found a spouse and figured out my long time pursuit in life by the time I was this age. I wasn’t opposed to have already been living that adult life that I watched my parents live by age 22. But here I am and with every day passing it occurs to me how truly young I actually am.
It seems to me I’ve met quite a wide variety of people in these 22 years, but that variety just continues to increase and as I get to know a vaster and vaster array of peoples, my perspective of the world continues to shift. Sure, I have filters in what I absorb and pillars that I hold to that not everyone agrees with, but I find it so immeasurably important to absorb at least one thing about this life here on earth from each individual that I have the privilege of getting to know. And on occasion, you may find an individual on your path whose story and experience is extremely different from your own. The temptation is to walk away and commune solely with those who share more commonalities with yourself, but there can be something very beneficial to coming alongside an individual with such difference.
So let me tell you a story. There were once two trees in an orchard—two very different trees. An olive tree and a lemon tree. These trees couldn’t grow within the same environment; they needed different kinds of care, different kinds of watering. Their growth season was different, their harvest season was different. In fact, the same workers couldn’t care for and harvest the fruit from both the trees because their individual needs were very different. There were few things that made sense about their placement in the same orchard.
The olive tree and lemon tree both saw the benefits of warmth and the consequences of frost, but the lemon tree needed much more sun exposure than the olive. The lemon tree expected a completely different bounty from the olive tree and at very different production rates. And there was a specific reason why each of these trees were so consumed by the ways they were cared for and what fruit they produced. Their tree peers hardly counted the gains and losses of their environment and care because they figured what was going to come would come and they knew their main uses. The olive trees would be harvested and used mostly for delicious eating and the production of olive oil. The lemon tree would be used for consumption of lemons in the grocery stores or often extracted for cleaning product. But the two special trees were on a mission and they were able to stay grounded in the same orchard because of it. While each tree knew their fruit wouldn’t go to waste- they shared a passion, a strong desire to see their fruit used for something greater. They both wanted the fruit specifically harvested from their tree to end up producing an expensive incense—a beautifully refined and delightful incense that was only used on the finest of occasions and bought by wealthy individuals. They knew that their fruit alone couldn’t make this incense but, if the trees could produce some of the best of the best fruit, it could contribute to this rare delicacy.
It wasn’t easy to produce the best fruit. The utmost sacrifice and intentionality had to be poured into the trees. The environment was never perfect and sacrifice was required from the other trees and the workers as well to accomplish this mission. Growing side by side had its give and take for each tree—they could have been uprooted and placed in their perfect growing environment, but they knew that the challenge of growing alongside each other just increased each tree’s stamina and with time their fruit became better and better.
It certainly didn’t take one or a couple seasons to produce fruit of this quality; no, it took seasons upon seasons of sacrifice and growing pains to produce such a fruit, but their unified mission drove these trees to success. Their fruits would never merge into one product—it would make very different incenses, affecting different individuals and attracting different consumers. Though this was all foreseeable, the trees opted for the time being to endure their locational challenges. One tree thrived during some seasons while the other felt the pain; other seasons proved to be a fruit-bearing year for one tree while the other tree had barely any fruit extracted. Some things just could not be helped, but those two very different trees knew they were learning a lot from watching how the other thrived and failed and eventually bore fruit and they were determined to see each other accomplish their specific mission.
In this life, I find it is far too easy to sidestep the challenges of growing alongside those individuals who constantly challenge your perspective, the way you think, how you see the world and how you react to various circumstances in life. It’s completely appealing to hang around those who will affirm you, agree with you and admire you more often than not. Every now and again in life you’ll find a curveball of a relationship has been thrown. There are options. You can choose to dodge it and risk a strike out or you can take your best swing.
A dear word to my fellow millennials—We are young and while we often embrace the risks and adventures of life in this phase of life more than any other, I believe we tend to embrace those risks and adventures within our comfort zones—as contradictory as that may sound. Start the class you think you’ll fail. Befriend the person that weirds you out. Try your hand at an art you’ve never explored. Stick it out if you’re used to quitting early or give yourself a break if you’re the one that never rests. I highly encourage us to look beyond and find those opportunities the Lord has waiting to grow and stretch and teach us at our young, moldable age.