I view my life as an orchard. I dream of working that orchard and tending acres and acres of fresh fruit. My longing is echoed in one of my favorite songs:
If I had an orchard, I'd work till I'm raw If I had an orchard, I'd work till I'm sore
The lyrics are a plea for simple living and honest work – work that squeezes all the goodness and rightness out of life. Orchards don't flourish automatically, so how do I go from an empty field to a flourishing orchard, from fantasy to reality, from dream to destiny? Perhaps I've found the answer in the following statement.
Sow a thought, reap an act. Sow an act, reap a habit. Sow a habit, reap a character. Sow a character, reap a destiny.
In just a few succinct lines I can see the path to my orchard. It's a path to human flourishing. In this statement the process of achievement and success are laid before me. When I speak of 'achievement' and 'success' I am not talking about some weak and shabby definition, like making-a-lot-of-money, or gathering-up-a-bunch-of-fame.
I long for the day when virtue grows from my soul like fruit grows from the trees. I long for a life well tended. Well nourished. Well cared for.
A fruitful life.
All orchard forming begins with my thoughts. What am I filling my mind with? What thoughts am I dwelling on? What books am I reading? What do I listen to?
To tend my orchard I must prepare the field. I've got to rip out bushes, prune trees and uproot the ... I must carve the earth. I must make space – space for seeds. Do I see this furrowed space as sacred? Am I making space in my life? How am I clearing away the clutter? Author and spiritual guide Henri Nouwen said it this way,
"By creating a sacred space, you reserve a part of yourself and prevent your life from completely being filled up, occupied, or preoccupied."
The second thing you must do is obtain the finest seed for your orchard. Your not concerned with cheap seeds or 'get trees-quick' seed. You' search high and low for the seeds of strength and longevity. You keep the longview in mind. You don't settle for the first seed bag that comes around. These are your future trees we're talking about.
Third, you must bury your seeds deep within the soil of your life. You must diligently plan the spacing of those seeds. You don't just cram them next to each other so you can get as many trees as possible. You carefully place each seed a healthy distance away from each other so that your trees can grow to maximum capacity and not be stunted by one another.
The fourth thing you do is nourish and protect your seeds. It's not enough to sow. You must tend. Tending is not what cause the growth but it's what creates the conditions for it. You must add water when necessary. Pull and pick weeds on a weekly basis. Keep birds and other rodents off your property. They will always come looking for your orchard.
The fifth thing you do is you reap. Gathering all of the fruit of your labor. You must be careful to avoid injuring your tree but pick precisely so that you don't break a limb.
Amidst all of these steps you'll find yourself wanting. waiting. Learning how to wait well is crucial to achieving their destiny. Of achieving your orchard. If we get in a hurry and try to short circuit the process we'll have to go back and start the process over again. You can't hurry destiny. Let it come to you in due season.
How many times have I thought to myself , I want to grow faster, this taking too long. How many times have I settled for a quick burst of impatience over a long and steady patience. Especially with writing. I want to be a writer but don't want to write. I am a paradox. I want to be financially independent but I don't want to save money. I want to become Christlike but I don't want to pray.
Why? Because it takes so long. But what I am learning is that it's the only way. I am responsible for two things: my thoughts and my actions. This is the range of freedom I've been given. Now what am I going to do with them?
Habits, character, and destiny are fruit. They're the beauty of the orchard – the sweet smell of diligence. They make the waiting worth it. We don't have to wait until the end of our life to reap by the way. Like farmers we experience the seasons of growth. We will have many harvests in our lives – especially as we remain diligent.
There are no secrets to change. There's only consistency. It's a day-in-day-out working on my thoughts and sowing acts. It's not constant – it's consistent. It's not perfect – it's progress.
I want to change. I want to be different. I am exhausted with trying. Trying is so terribly lazy. What's needed is training. Training is changing. But what does training look like? How does one go about it?
Now, let's get to specifics. The first two lines in that quote are manual process and the last two are automatic processes. If you want to build an orchard then you have to do two things: sow thoughts and sow acts. The trick is to get healthy sources of thoughts. Find the places where you can find thoughts that propel you to action.
SO if i was to set out to build an orchard in my field I would start with the following thoughts:
This will be a beautiful orchard one day. I will learn everything I need to know about orchards. I will care for this orchard. I will seek to understand the seasons. I will purchase the finest seeds for my orchard. I will protect and defend my orchard from disaster and disease.