Several years ago, when my family moved up the river from Bath, one surprise that came with our new home was a tenacious apple tree. Despite the tall grass and thistles that threatened to choke it and a deluge of water that had loosened its roots, causing its trunk to grow sideways, it continued to bear fruit.
Not much, mind you. The tree – along with the house – had been abandoned. But on my first visit, when I waded through the weeds and stood under the tree, I looked up to see one glossy red orb hanging from its limbs. Reaching up to pick it, I ate it on the way home, and it was delicious.
After buying the house, one of the first repairs my husband made was to wedge a piece of wood beneath the tree’s crooked trunk. We cut back the brush, and, one blustery winter, we pruned the branches. Last year, the tree rewarded us with a bumper crop – so much fruit we shared with others. That same fall, we cut down a nearby oak to plant more fruit trees. But in our naivety as new orchardists, we foolishly stacked the wood near our apple tree.
Hauling firewood sometime last winter, my husband mentioned that something had been gnawing at the trunk of our tree. I was teaching and taking graduate classes. There was a pandemic. I had a family to take care of, so I ignored him. Imagine my dismay when the snow melted and I walked by our apple tree to discover a ring of bark about a foot long missing from its base.
Mice, it turns out, love nesting in woodpiles. They also love apple trees. We had essentially built a condo for one of our tree’s chief adversaries and invited them to move in. All spring, I’ve watched and waited, wondering whether our tree would survive. First came the tiny green buds. Then came the blossoms – not as profuse as past years, but still there – stubbornly pushing out petals to produce new fruit.
These days, I find myself feeling a lot like our apple tree. Maybe you do too. Barely clinging to the ground on which you were planted. Choked by weeds. Gnawed. Neglected. Abandoned. “So let’s not get tired of doing what is good,” the apostle Paul wrote in Galatians 6:9 (NLT). “At just the right time we will reap a harvest of blessing if we don’t give up.”
When I read the news – a medical system overloaded by the pandemic in India; rocket attacks and airstrikes between Gaza and Israel, the continued strife in our own country – I am reminded of the importance of being tenacious. The fruit born of doing what is good isn’t merely for our own benefit. Like the apples I shared with my neighbors, it is also for the benefit of others.
So if you, like me, are feeling neglected and gnawed. Don’t give up. At just the right time, we will reap a harvest.