(Photo credit: Chris Devers)
(An Old Folk Tale, Retold)
In an old forest of tall oak trees, a woodsman took a long walk, enjoying the warmth of spring sunshine and the rustle of a gentle breeze. After an hour or two, he became hungry and pulled a large apple from his knapsack. The man happily munched as he marched along, and soon the apple was nothing but a core. The woodsman tossed it by the path, and then with his hands, mounded dirt and leaves over the discard.
By the warmth of the sun and the soaking of spring showers, perhaps one of these seeds will sprout, he thought.
Indeed, one tiny seed did begin to grow.
At first, there was not much evidence—just a small green twig with two curled-up leaves. But, just as the woodsman had hoped, sunshine and rain transformed the sprout into a fine little tree, with graceful branches, and many bright, emerald-green leaves.
The little tree was quite happy, except for one thing. He didn’t have any stars.
You see, every night, as the little apple tree looked up at the majestic oaks around him, he noticed they all had twinkling stars scattered among their branches. The sight was glorious to behold.
And the little apple tree felt cheated, incomplete, and jealous. Night after night he found the same thought circling around in his…trunk:
If only I had stars among my branches like these oak trees. Then I could be really happy.
Seasons passed, and the little apple tree continued to grow. One spring, soft, pink and white blossoms appeared among his branches, and a heavenly aroma filled the air. You’d think the little apple tree would be delighted to display such beauty. But, alas, he still had his heart set on stars.
Then, just as the tree was getting to like those flowers, they began to turn brown and fall to the ground. In their place, tiny green balls appeared. Very cute, but not sparkling and bright like stars.
Those little orbs kept growing, and as summer became autumn, they turned red and became full-fledged, glowing apples. Now some trees would be very satisfied if they could produce something as lovely and useful as apples. But the poor little tree still craved stars.
One night a fierce thunderstorm whipped through the forest. Leaves lost their grip and swirled on the wind in great clusters. Huge branches were torn from their trunks and came crashing down to the forest floor.
The little apple tree held tightly to the earth with his roots, but he was powerless to hold onto all his leaves and apples. In the morning, he could see a dozen or more apples on the ground. Several had fallen with such force that they had split open, and…
SURPRISE! In the center of each apple was a STAR!
The little tree had stars in his branches ever since he started growing apples! He just never knew.
(If you cut an apple in half horizontally, you, too, will discover the “star” within.)
* * * * * * * * * * * *
This cautionary tale expresses what scripture has taught all along: We each have “stars” hidden within by God our Creator—abilities, talents, and character traits. No one is left out.
But each set of gifts is different from person to person. “We have different gifts, according to the grace given us” (Romans 12:6a).
How boring if we were all the same. Yet how often do we look at someone else and wish we had the same ability or talent that God has given him/her? I don’t want to be like the little apple tree. I want to celebrate the stars in others.
So let’s think of the “oaks” around us—saints we appreciate and admire. Why not write a note this week, to express appreciation for their stars—the abilities, talents, and character traits that God has given them.
Then, let’s think honestly about our own stars. Write a note to God, a prayer of gratitude for the abilities, talents, and character traits he has put within each of us.
I’m reminded of a saying from my Midwestern childhood. When someone was surprised, it was not uncommon to hear that person cry out, “Oh, my stars!”
What a perfect title for that written prayer of gratitude: “Oh, My Stars!”
(Go ahead and give it a try.)