Did you climb trees when you were a child? (Or do you still?)
As a bit of a tomboy in my childhood, I was an inveterate tree-climber.
But I quickly learned that some trees were a lot easier to climb than others.
Some trees have rough bark, prickly needles or sticky, oozing sap: I wouldn’t even bother trying to climb those. Other trees might have smooth bark, but their branches were too close together or too high off the ground for a child to manage.
The old apple tree in my backyard was perfect, however. It had been climbed by generations of neighbourhood kids, with the result that much of the bark on the best branches had been worn smooth by little hands.
Its limbs had open architecture, making them as welcoming to children as open arms. And they were low enough to the ground that even the youngest tyke could clamber up.
That tree was a magnet for the neighbourhood kids, a favourite spot for us to gather. I have fond memories of it!
As I look back, it seems to me that we as believers should try to be a bit more like that old apple tree.
For one thing, we shouldn’t rub unbelievers the wrong way. We shouldn’t be prickly or harsh, with a condescending or judgemental attitude. Rather, our interactions with them should be as agreeable and frictionless as possible.
In the same way that children flocked to that old apple tree, we should make sure that our character is as attractive to others as Jesus’ was. People of all walks of life sought Him out, and were comfortable in His presence.
Our churches should also have open arms, so to speak. We should be welcoming to seekers and accommodate with grace their doubts and questions. Surely our faith is sturdy enough to allow people to test out our limbs?
Like the old apple tree, our houses of worship should be “easy to climb.” We shouldn’t throw up a bunch of barriers, making the unchurched believe they have to measure up to a certain standard before they’ll be welcomed. Church should be a favourite spot for all manner of people to gather.
The limbs of the old apple tree spread outward generously, not upwardly in a tightly closed formation. Likewise, we shouldn’t stay in little Christian cliques and close ranks, as though we’re in some exclusive club. We should leave plenty of space among our “branches” to welcome outsiders who need the fellowship of faith we can provide.
The apple tree’s branches started fairly low on its trunk, within easy reach of every kid in the neighbourhood. No matter anyone’s age, it should be easy for others to get a leg up, so to speak, into our faith community. We should make it straightforward for new believers to take their first steps in their walk with Christ among us.
Just as the apple tree’s leaf canopy provided an umbrella-like shelter from the rain, believers should offer others support and give them shelter from life’s difficulties. Let’s welcome outsiders and invite them to gather together with us under the umbrella of God’s love and protection.
Most of all, we should bear fruit like the apple tree did. As old as it was, it still brought forth apples, which we children sometimes munched on when we took a break from playing. As Christians, we know that God wants us to bear much fruit to benefit those He brings across our paths.
Who knew you could learn so much from an old apple tree!
© 2021 Lori J. Cartmell. All rights reserved.