Tuesday, December 05, 2023

The apple tree (or, grace overcomes legalism)

The apple tree

      My parents had gone for a six-week visit to the old country, and I had been farmed out to family friends. The friends lived on a farm, which was very exciting for a six-year-old city boy.

      The farmer, Mr. R., had planted a new sapling apple tree near the vegetable garden beside the house. It was a lonely-looking little tree, and it had produced its first-ever apple. The apple was tiny, but it was an apple. Mrs. R. was proud of it and the family was talking about it. 

      Dear Mrs. R. knew me for longer than just one day, and warned me not to pick the apple. I was to leave it on the tree. 

      Well, this piqued my interest and curiosity. I went to look at the apple hanging there on the tree, forlorn and all alone. I wondered what it would taste like, but Mrs. R.’s warning rang in my ears: "Don't pick the apple, George!" 

      Hmm... What was I to do? I reached upwards for the little branch upon which the apple hung and slowly, carefully, pulled the branch towards me. I went up on my tippy-toes and took a generous bite of the apple. Then, just as carefully, I let the little branch back up. There! I had not picked the apple, and yet I had tasted it.    

       Mrs. R. reported that someone had taken a bite of her apple. There was only one who could have done it: George! I got a bit of a scolding, and I was ashamed. 

      Later I learned that Mr. R. said I should get a spanking for it. His wife, however, disagreed. George should not be spanked. After all, although he had taken a bite of the apple, he had not plucked it. It was still hanging there, albeit missing part of it.

      I was being legalistic, but Mrs. R. showed me grace. I had observed the letter of the law, but she showed me favour when I had deserved the opposite: punishment. The definition of grace.