Parable of the Apple Tree

I can’t say that I grew up as the “outdoorsy” type. As a little girl, my mom tells me that I hated getting dirty. I’d always wear shoes outside. Even sandals required a pair of socks. Yes. I was that kid. While neighborhood friends were out adventuring through unclaimed territory of the scary neighbor’s backyard or climbing trees to gain the best vantage point for recreating a Power Ranger’s episode, I was sitting at my grandparents’ picnic table wondering when it was time to go inside. Okay, I did actually accompany some of my friends on said adventures, but most of the time, I wasn’t interested in exploring something new. I never had the drive to go beyond the comfortable.

Looking back, I see how much I’ve changed.

This past weekend, I invited some friends on an apple-picking excursion. It’s something I haven’t done since I was a kid. Based on the story I just told, I’m not sure how much I liked it then. But I sure as heck was excited about it now. Packed in my friend’s SUV, we drove about an hour into the foothills of the Appalachians in North Carolina. At least I think that’s what they were. I haven’t seen real mountains since leaving the Northwest. At any rate, we arrived at the orchard. Families toted young children to the play area, corralled their small charges to the nearest trees, snapping photos. A few couples moseyed row to row, I’m sure more interested in finding a secluded tree to hide behind and exchange affection.

I was on a mission. I didn’t dress for it, though. When people go to the orchard with friends, it’s a chance to don the cutest of autumn clothing. Of course, my first time on this type of adventure in probably 20 years (y-i-k-e-s), I followed suit. My friend Josh was the first to brave the tops of the trees. It’s late in the season now, and most of the apples once easily reached were already back to the picker’s kitchens, awaiting their inclusion in pie and strudel recipes. He climbed up, along with my friend Kellie, eagerly picking what was left of a well-visited Fuji tree.

We continued on, and I found a row of a kind of apple I’d never heard of: Arkansas Black. The name intrigued me enough and I set out to find the best. A few underdeveloped, rather sad looking spheres hung from branches near the path. However, upon looking skyward, I saw them: a cluster of the most beautiful apples I’d probably ever seen. They were a rich, deep, dark, blood-red color…and I had to get them.

Before I knew it, I was in the tree, searching for the best route to my treasure. Never mind the fact that I was in a jean skirt and leggings; I didn’t want anyone else to do the work for me. I scaled a few branches, and in a moment, I was at the top. I took a look around and I liked the view. For a brief second I realized I’d never really climbed a tree before. I’d always been too afraid. And in that same instance, I realized how much I missed out on! This was so much fun! I got as high as I could and started picking. I looked to my left and saw more, some as big as my hand. They were gorgeous, but getting to those particular apples proved difficult. They were way out on a limb, but I tried for them anyway. Gripping a sturdy branch and anchoring my foot in the fork of two others, I trusted the apple-filled limb to hold me while reaching out for a few of its delicacies.  My venture proved successful.

This process happened a few more times, and soon enough, my small basket was full of beautiful, crisp, delicious fruit.

Up in one of those trees, the Lord spoke to me…as He often does through nature: Sometimes, the best things are just out of reach. When we truly want something, we have to do whatever it takes to get it. Those apples would not have fallen into my basket. The ones on the ground were starting to rot. Sure, they’d be easier to get at, but not worth it. The ones that hung over the path were fresh, but also easy to get to. I don’t know that I would appreciate them as much. Let’s be real: an apple is an apple, but had I not gone for the best ones, I wouldn’t have this story to tell you. I wouldn’t have been reminded that adventure is fun. I would have missed out on the view of those hills from the tree tops.

Lately, I’ve been indifferent. Self-driven motivation has been lacking in so many areas. The truth is this: there are things in my life and in your life that aren’t easy. There are people who need to know Jesus. There are goals we want to achieve. There are adventures to embark on. We could take the easy route and pick up a few rotten experiences along the way. We might pick the thing that doesn’t take much work and therefore never appreciate it. God gives us challenges so we don’t miss out on His best. He wants us to go after His calling with everything we have, forsaking what might be acceptable or comfortable. He asks us to be bold, to pray without ceasing, to go to the lost, the lonely, the broken.

We have to take on these challenges with the assumption that God won’t fail us. I have trouble believing that sometimes, but it’s complete truth. Failure is not part of the character of God. It’s an impossibility for Him to be anything but unshakable. He accomplishes all He sets out to do. So when He said, do whatever it takes, He meant it. Because He did the same for us. Because He knew He’d always win.

Go after the best, no matter what it takes. I promise you, it’s worth it.

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