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When You Feel Dead Inside: Parable of the Sapling and the Orchard Keeper

Updated: Jan 13, 2020

A sapling once refused to grow because the orchard keeper had planted him on the north side of the orchard, where the harsh winds were the strongest. The sapling thought it an injustice to be planted where the North Wind hit the orchard first, because he longed to be on the south side where the North Wind barely touched the saplings.

So in protest the little sapling refused to bear fruit. He would not allow the essential minerals in the soil to enter his roots. He closed himself off and wished to die.

Once the orchard keeper realized what the sapling was doing, he confronted the sapling.

He said, “Tell me what’s wrong?”

The unruly sapling said, “What’s wrong? I feel dead inside. You promised me a fruitful life of happiness and wealth, then you planted me here in the worst spot in the orchard where I’m exposed to the biting wind. So plant me on the south side, and I shall be happy. I will bear much fruit for you.”

The orchard keeper sighed and said, “Little sapling, all your sap has gone to your head. You think you know more than the orchard keeper, but you underestimate your position in the orchard, because, yes, the North Wind is biting this time of year. I understand that. But I planted you here because Spring is coming, and once Spring gets here, you will have the choice spot in the orchard, because the wind will take your fragrance and blow it throughout the orchard. You will become the sweet-smell that attracts everyone to my orchard. Even the other saplings will wish they had the opportunity to spread fragrance, the way you will. But as we speak you are stinking up the whole orchard with your pigheadedness. If you continue to close off your roots, then I must put the ax to your base. Then you will be cut down and cast into the fire.”

The little sapling only heard the negative in the orchard keeper’s words, and he said, “So I stink, huh? If I’m as bad as you say, then go ahead and cut me down.”

The orchard keeper pleaded with the sapling, “You are focusing only on the negative and excluding the positive. You will be a blessing to the orchard and not a curse. That’s why I planted you in the harshest place of the orchard. I put you here because I have faith in you. You only need to wait for Spring to appear.”

The sapling crossed his branches in defiance and said, “I refuse to be in this spot all winter. Choose someone else.”

The orchard keeper retrieved the ax and stood before the sapling. He reared back to swing.

Now the sapling had never seen the ax before, only heard of it. He had only heard of the sharp point of the ax. Now he had witnessed it. And before the orchard keeper swung, he cried out, “Stop! Stop!”

The orchard keeper put his ax down.

The sapling said, “I tell you what, I’m willing to try and be all that you want me to be. Just don’t put the ax to me.”

The orchard keeper said, “Trying to be a fruit-bearing tree is not how you become a fruit-bearing tree.”

The sapling said, “What must I do?”

The orchard keeper said, “You must trust me. When all of your leaves have littered the orchard and the North Wind is biting at the tips of your branches, you must believe that I planted you here for a reason. You must believe I have a purpose for your life. And, yes, there will come a moment when you are suffering more than any other tree in the orchard, but remember, winter always ends. Spring always comes, and then summer. Then you will be the fragrance of the orchard. The winds will carry your sweet smell to every town in the valley. Then you will know happiness and warmth.

"And I know, right now, you can’t see the spring for the winter, but I see both. I stand on the hill and see both sides of nature. So trust me. Cling to me, if you must. And above all things, never forget, you are thriving. It may not feel or look as though you are, but there's a holy seed inside you that I never betray. Ever. So never forget this. Life is not determined by the shape of your branches or by the size of your trunk.It's not about your shape. It's about your heart. It's about endurance. So, yes, winter is hell, but winter ends. Now stay in your spot and thrive. Trust the substance of my holy seed inside. It never dies.”

Lamentations 3:28-30 (The Message (MSG)28-30

When life is heavy and hard to take, go off by yourself. Bury your face in the dust— there may yet be hope. Enter the silence. Bow in prayer. Don’t ask questions: Wait for hope to appear. Don’t run from trouble. Take it full-face. The “worst” is never the worst.

Isaiah 6:12-13

The country will look like pine and oak forest

with every tree cut down—

Every tree a stump, a huge field of stumps.

But there’s a holy seed in those stumps.”

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