The apple has been depicted as dark and sinister. After all, it is the fruit credited with beguiling Adam and Eve. It is the apple that poisons Snow White, sending her into a “sleeping death.” And everyone knows that “one bad apple spoils the whole barrel.” But maybe the apple gets a bum rap. The notion of the wicked “bad apple” found a champion in teen heart-throb Donnie Osmond who sang to his would-be girlfriend: “One bad apple don’t spoil the whole bunch girl. Oh, give it one more try before you give up on love.” The Osmond’s 1971 hit toppled the villain apple, reinforcing Walt’s depiction of Prince Charming’s love prevailing. In fact, the apple need not be held suspect at all, for if eaten daily, it is powerful enough to keep the doctor away. The once impugned apple steps from the shadows of shame to share stature in the hearts of most Americans with the wholesome and highly respected icons: Mom and pie.
Johnny Appleseed, according to folklore, valued this fruit so much that he went along his life’s path spreading seeds and seedlings,
dreaming of a future harvest he would not reap. He made this task his life mission, giving generously to all he encountered. So much
was his passion that it earned him his nickname. He planted seeds which would become the fruit; he did not spread the fruit itself. He
understood that every seed had the potential to grow and become something so satisfying to people, most he never would meet.
There is even a quote often attributed to Johnny Appleseed: “If I knew without a doubt that the world would end tomorrow, I would still plant my apple trees.” Now, this saying could have been uttered by other people, but the sentiment is a powerful expression of hope. Imagine believing in a mission so greatly that even if it would prove worthless, one would still be busy to accomplish that mission. This kind of diligence, this type of passion, must be admired. It is likened to a gospel passion.
Recently, I heard an unfamiliar hymn, and its words stunned me with their simple message. The first verse reads: “In the bulb there is a flower; in the seed, an apple tree; in cocoons, a hidden promise; butterflies will soon be free! In the cold and snow of winter there’s a spring that waits to be, unrevealed until its season, something God alone can see.”
As the congregation sang the words, I grabbed my smartphone to snap a picture of the hymnal page, intent on learning the backstory. What I found added to the power of the hymn’s message.
Organist and hymn writer Natalie Sleeth wrote and dedicated these words to her husband, Dr. Ronald Sleeth, a minister and professor of homiletics whose struggle with cancer ended in his death shortly after the premiere of the music penned in his honor. Like so many of our anthems, the author composed inspiring music and lyrics in the depths of her heartache, expressing hope that comes from walking with the Lord through the valleys of life. The revelation of the hidden promise, the hope we all count on, often remains hidden, seen only by the Lord God. The beauty is that within the smallness of the seed lies the potential that will come in the fullness of time. Our faith demands that we hold fast to what God reveals regardless of what we see.
God’s Word says it this way: “Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen” (Heb 11:1). You and I walk by faith, trusting in the One who offers hope for the day. He does not expect any of us to be unfailingly strong. Our strength is a gift from God. Paul the Apostle reminds us that God promises sufficient grace and His “power is made perfect in weakness” (2 Cor 12:9).
What pleases God is the faith we place in Him. We accomplish nothing through our own strength. We rest in His word, his promises, every time and in every circumstance.
The title of this great anthem is “Hymn of Promise.” Wonderful, don’t you agree?
Written by Jim Edminson, Editor of Charity & Children