Beneath a Vine and Fig Tree (in Peace and Unafraid)


The difference between a ripe fig and a Fig Newton? Kind of like the difference between lightning and a lightning bug, to borrow from Mark Twain.

The difference between a ripe fig and a Fig Newton? Kind of like the difference between lightning and a lightning bug, to borrow from 19th century humorist Mark Twain.

The other day, I discovered that my life had carried me into a portrayal of God’s promises more precise than I could have imagined. An old praise chorus kept running through my head, the passage from Micah set to a tune by Shalom Altman:

“And everyone ‘neath their vine and fig tree shall live in peace and unafraid.”

I started singing it as I was cleaning, and suddenly it struck me. I live in a home surrounded by fruiting vines, with melons and tomatoes coming ripe daily. I have been eating warm, juicy fresh figs for the first time in my life, gathered from the trees in this yard and the yard next door. And I have come to a time of peace in my life. I am not afraid.

When I told my landlady about the blessing this property represents, she quickly turned the subject in a different direction. “Lots of people in this neighborhood have fig trees,” she said dismissively.

I found that curious. I’ve lived in the South for nearly 20 years and have never seen a fig tree outside an arboretum.

But then I thought a bit more about this neighborhood. It’s an older one, and many of its residents have lived in the same house for 40 or 50 years. In the newer suburbs, no one bothers to do more than maintain the developer’s foundation planting and lawn, because no one plans to stay in a house any longer than it takes to afford an upgrade. You only think about planting a fig tree if you plan to stay put, because then you can afford to wait four years to the first harvest.

And then I thought a little more about what God promised Israel in Micah. Wars would end because God would judge among the many nations. And everyone would live underneath his or her own fig tree, a tree planted and nurtured until it grew to fruit. They would no longer be driven from place to place by conflicts. They would be stable. Settled.

That’s how I feel right now. I don’t feel certain that I’ll live in this house in a garden on a lake forever. But I do feel that the conflicts that were driving me from one direction to another have come to an end. Whatever the law may decide, whatever the church has judged, God is responsible for the judgment. And I belong to God. I am at peace and unafraid.

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About Carlene Hill Byron

The former editor of New England Church Life and The New England Christian, Carlene Hill Byron is enjoying being home in Maine after 20 years in North Carolina. She is a member of the Redbud Writers Guild. Find her at christianpurposeblog.wordpress.com, churchandmentalillness.wordpress.com and on Facebook at MyHouseHasHistory.
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