What was it that caught my eye, that sun-dappled summer day? What was it that caused me to pause and marvel at the apple tree before me? Was it lush boughs, or clusters of scarlet fruit? No, it was a scattering of small green apples on a pitiful, spindly tree. You see, it wasn’t appearance or talent that caught my eye, but the humble, yet powerful example of perseverance.
I pondered what a sad sight it must have seemed, about 25 years before my summer day, when my grandparents first surveyed this apple tree in their new yard. It didn’t have much to say for itself. It had no appearance of ever having been anything special. More likely it had sprung from someone’s long-forgotten apple core. It was a tiny old tree, yet all its branches kind of stuck out the top. They were short and brittle, and its trunk had a huge gash in it, the tale of a hard life.
All it had to offer was a crop of small green apples. They weren’t big and juicy, nor red and sweet, like the apples on the other trees in the yard, but they were its very best, according to the ability God had given it. I wonder, if I were that tree, if perhaps I wouldn’t have bothered at all? I might have sighed and said, “If everyone else can do so much better, why should I even try?” But the tree gave all it could, no matter how it compared to what others gave.
But, there came a day when my grandparents decided the tree was in the way. We lived right next door, so we offered to take it off their hands. So the tree now labeled “a bother and “in the way” was dug up, carried to our yard, and planted in some “out of the way” corner.
Nobody would have blamed the poor, rejected tree if it never did anything more than drop its leaves. But what did it do? By the strength of God, though wilted and injured, it budded and bloomed! It gave nectar to the bees, fragrance to the air, and beauty to every eye that fell upon it. Then it gave apples—yes, a crop of little green apples no better, and yet no worse, than the ones it had given before. I wonder, if I were that tree, if I would have been so absorbed in my own hurts that I would never have thought of giving to others? But year after year, it gave and gave. It didn’t matter if it wasn’t much sometimes. It gave what God gave it strength to give.
Its humble, out-of-the-way corner proved to be a blessing, for the tiny tree, with its now nearly-hollow trunk, was never exposed to the storms that hit the other trees in our yard. The grand tree around the corner that bore the lofty title “Our Best Apple Tree” thus fell over and had to be propped back up three times! I’m sure we paid a lot more attention to it than the poor, scraggly tree though. Its juicy red apples were looked forward to as one of the highlights of autumn. Perhaps, if I were that scraggly tree, I would have compared myself to the other tree and given up in despair. But even though it was nothing compared to “Our Best Tree,” it continued to give all it could. Even though its
apples weren’t nearly as sweet, or juicy, or big, it gave them anyway, and it did bless us with many a yummy apple pie!
For about twenty-five years it gave, and gave, and gave, and then found itself named “In the way” again. Yes, again! A new shed was to be put in the corner where it stood, so once again it had to go. For the second time it was uprooted. Then, because it had grown since it had been moved, half of its branches had to come off. It was lifted and dragged through our yard, only to find itself planted right where it had come from—our grandparent’s yard.
Well, there it stood, a pitiful sight! Why it only looked like half a tree now! Not only were half its branches gone, but its trunk was completely hollow, with a hole on both sides so you could see right through it!
This time, nobody expected to ever see an apple on it again. Everyone thought the injured tree would finally give up. I think, if I were that tree, I might have been tempted to do just that. I might have said, “Is this what I get for all that I gave? Is injury my only reward for all my sacrifice?” and right there decided to never do anything for anyone again. But is that what the tree did?
Spring came, and with it a sprinkling of delicate, fragrant blossoms! It appeared that the weary, wilted tree was determined to give anything to glorify its Creator, no matter what the cost.
We held our breath. Summer came, and with it…a crop of tiny green apples! Yes, the tree still gave! And somehow it struck me that sunny day as I pondered the tree’s small offering, it was giving to the very ones that had hurt it! It dawned on me, Wasn’t Christ like that? Shouldn’t I be like that?
The tree took on a whole new light in my eyes. It gave, even if it couldn’t give as much fruit, or fruit as good as others. It gave, even when nobody cared or noticed. It gave, even to those who gave nothing in return. It gave, even when it was hurt and rejected. Yes, it silently stood, a perfect example of the Christ-like servant of all, that lives for others no matter what. Shouldn’t I be more like that tree?
I smiled and said in my heart, “Herein is My Father glorified; that ye bear much fruit. So shall ye be My disciples.” (John 15:8)