Saturday, December 15

25 years in Ecuador and what God is teaching us through our mango tree

Twenty-five years ago today, December 15, we stepped off the plane in Guayaquil to begin our missionary service in the country of Ecuador.  A good portion of those years have been spent--as Evelyn Underhill says,
*conjugating three verbs: to want, to have, to do.  Craving, clutching, and fussing over these verbs has kept us in perpetual unrest. We too easily forget that none of these have any ultimate significance except as they are transcended in the fundamental verb, to be. It is in being--not wanting, having, or doing--that we find our essence and purpose in life and true service to God.
In our back yard is a medium size mango tree. Every December the tree bears fruit. Not just a few mangoes, but year after year it RAINS MANGOES! It always amazes me that this happens without my having done anything to bring about this harvest (I am a terrible gardener!) My only contribution is to pick up  the fallen fruit.

No matter how much I may fret, work, strategize, and even pray during the entire year, there is absolutely nothing I am doing myself to make this tree bear its annual harvest of mangoes.
"And he will be like a tree which yields its fruit in its season." --Psalm 1
As the Psalmist says, a tree cannot help but bear fruit in its proper season.  Our mango tree may want a lot of things, even wish things were different. The tree may not be content with what it has to show for its years of service. It may not like the idea of where it is located out back where it is out-of-sight. It may even try to do more on its own to somehow bring about a greater mango harvest for the glory of God. But, of course, all these are foolish strivings.

God himself commands that we are to cease striving, be still, let go, relax and know that HE IS GOD. (Psalm 46:10)

The only thing for a tree to do is to be the tree God created it to be.  What I am learning after 25 years of gardening on the mission field is that trees bear fruit in their season regardless of all the fussing, fretting, and fighting I may try to do to hasten in the harvest.  It makes more spiritual sense to do what God commanded and cease striving, slow down, chill out, [try to] be still, let go, release to God, relax and simply BE that mango tree hidden in the back yard.  Galatians 6:9 promises we shall indeed reap in due time if we do not grow weary and do not lose heart in doing good.

This Christmas Season let us keep in mind Jesus left his home, his comfort zone, his Glory to be the "Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world." (John 1:36) -- a sacrifice for sinners, not exactly the most appealing role for the Son of God. Yet who, although He existed in the form of God, did not regard equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied Himself, taking the form of a bond-servant, and being made in the likeness of men...He humbled Himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross."

We too want to continue to be obedient to our Master and Lord. Twenty-five years is a milestone, but it is not the end of the journey. As you pray for us, the Muses in Ecuador, pray we would continue to be His faithful mango trees who in due season bear fruit. The Christmas gift we desire from you is to take the time and NOT CEASE to pray for Guy, Linda, Joshua, and Anna the prayer Paul prayed for the Colossian believers:
  • that we might be filled with the knowledge of His will in all spiritual wisdom and understanding
  • that we may walk in a manner worthy of the Lord
  • that we please Him in all respects
  • that we would bear fruit in every good work
  • that we would increase in the knowledge of God
  • that we would be strengthened with all power for the attaining of all steadfastness and patience
  • that we would joyously give thanks to the Father who has qualified us to share in the inheritance of the saints in light.  

* "We mostly spend [our] lives conjugating three verbs: to want, to have, and to do. Craving, clutching, and fussing, on the material, political, social, emotional, intellectual--even on the religious plane, we are kept in perpetual unrest: forgetting that none of these verbs have any ultimate significance, except so far as they are transcended by and included in, the fundamental verb, to be: and that Being, not wanting, having and doing, is the essence of a spiritual life."
--The Spiritual Life, by Evelyn Underhill, pg.20-21


John Nix said...

These are the most simple, yet PROFOUND words that have come my way in a long time. Thank you so much for passing these truths on and reminding me what Christian living really is!

J. Guy Muse said...

Thanks, John. Most mornings I sit out under this tree and have had a lot of time to think over the words penned in this post. If you ever get a chance to read Evelyn Underhill's "The Spiritual Life", do so. It is a gem.

Joshpackwood said...

Uncle Guy, I am glad to hear you read Underhill. Have you read some of her other works, such as Mysticism or Worship? I started reading her shortly after seminary and she has had an influence on my life.

J. Guy Muse said...


The only Underhill I have read is "The Spiritual Life" which has long been over the years amongst my "Top 10" reads. Through my mom I was introduced to Madame Guyon and have actually read more of her writings on mysticism than anyone else.

Congrats on the PhD! I know all of your family is equally proud of you!