I’m torn between two images for describing relationships in life. In some ways I think we are like trees. In other ways we are more like planets. The good thing about metaphors is, of course, that we only use those points of comparison that ring true.
In some ways we are like trees. We are known by our fruit, as Jesus said, but that fruit is determined by many factors. Our DNA or, spiritually speaking, who we are at our core is the biggest factor. However, our roots also contribute to the quality of the fruit we can bear and the health of the tree we become. Our roots are our past, our family of origin in which our stability is anchored.
Then there are the environmental factors like air quality, amount of precipitation, temperature, etc. Metaphorically, this is the atmosphere of our life, everything from food to friendships to financial status. This also plays a part in the kind of fruit we produce.
The fruit would be what we contribute to this world. (And before you say it, calling individuals the fruits or nuts is stretching the analogy too far.)
Then there is the idea of a planet. A planet is self-differentiated better than a tree. It can move, but its course is influenced by invisible forces that guide it. Planets revolve around larger celestial bodies and have smaller bodies revolving around them. While the relationships seem haphazard, they are not.
The main point with the planet analogy is that we don’t always understand how others influence as we “float” through life. Why do we feel attracted to some more strongly than to others? Why can’t we get away from the sense of being pulled by others? We know instinctively that if we don’t assert our own influence we will crash and burn.
The problem with both analogies is that it ignores our free will, the ability to break loose from factors beyond our control. The wondrous thing about being a living human is that we are neither plant nor vegetable, but animal with spirits that can over-come external forces. Nothing quite serves as a metaphor for spiritual power to change by choice.