Rhythm series: fruitful over productive

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A few months ago, I began the rhythm series looking at rest and the place it holds in our lives. The opposite of rest should be work or activity or productivity. The problem with this framework is that it has the potential to leave out our purpose or intention. Productive is all about doing and works. It’s a mechanical and technical word that has implications of busyness and visible, external results. Instead of focusing on productivity between pauses of rest, I’ve been convicted to think about being fruitful.

Fruitfulness is the first mandate humankind received from God in Genesis – it’s part of our nature and makeup. Fruitful has more to do with being than doing. It’s a word full of connotations relating to life, fullness, and internal growth affecting the external. This is especially difficult when we can look productive if we’re busy on our phones all day or if we’re moving from activity to activity from morning until night, but fruitful asks: are these actions producing fruit in my life?

“[She] is like a tree planted beside flowing streams that bears its fruit in its season and whose leaf does not wither. Whatever [she] does prospers.” (Psalm 1:3)

What does it look like to bear your fruit in your season? This is so challenging because our tendency to look around to see what others are doing and how others are living usually eclipses our own purposes and desires. We look at the friend who creates pinterest like crafts for her kids and think we should do the same. We look at the friend who works full-time and is thriving in her career and wonder if the work we’re doing is as valuable. We see the produce in our friends’ lives and begin to compare something that’s not meant to be compared.

When we’re able to embrace the type of tree we are and remain connected to the source, the streams, the God who sustains us in every season, we are fruitful in our season. It’s a fruitfulness that is unique and entirely our own. We weren’t created to replicate someone else’s fruit — our apple tree isn’t meant to bear oranges.

“Sit. Feast on your life.” (Derek Walcott)

Fruitful lives produce a feast we can sit down and enjoy. Productive lives for the sake of getting things done produce burn out where we hit a wall and crash. There are a few questions we can ask ourselves that prompt us to think about our own fruitfulness in the season we’re in.

What does fruitful mean for my season? 

This comes down to values and determining which aspects of our life are most valuable and necessary right now.

What are my actual priorities right now? This should be a short list — we can’t do all the things all the time.

Answering this question in complete honesty can be difficult because our priorities may not seem grand or glamorous, but if we’re honest about the most essential things needing our energy and time it will allow us to do what’s important rather than what’s immediate.

When to quit and when to say no?

It takes wisdom and courage to know when to quit something and how to say no with grace.

Where do I spend the resources I currently have? 

If we are clear on our season and priorities, figuring out how to allocate our finite amounts of time, energy, and money becomes a lot less complicated. It still requires some tough decision making, but it eases and clarifies the process.

If it feels like you’re running on the wheel of life without going anywhere, take some time to reflect on these questions. Honor yourself and the season you’re in; give yourself permission to be fruitful rather than productive. Choose enduring over short-lived. Choose wholeheartedness over instant gratification. If we can ask ourselves every night, “what did I begin today that might endure?” (John O’Donohue), it may just be the reminder and encouragement we need to keep choosing fruitful.

“Sometimes I need

only to stand

wherever I am

to be blessed.”

(Mary Oliver)

That’s all for this Tuesday, friends. Cheers!

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