One of my very favorite children’s books is Shel Silverstein’s “The Giving Tree.” That book ends with a stump being all that is left of the once beautiful, productive apple tree who is the star of the story. Now you would think this would be a sad, not to mention unsatisfactory ending to this story. But surprisingly, it is an ending full of hope. Why? Perhaps because the tree had a purpose in every season of her life and even in the closing scene of the book she had again found her purpose and was actively fulfilling it.
Over the years, the tree had given the boy her leaves, her shade, her apples, her branches and finally, even her trunk. Now all that was left of her was a stump when the boy came back to her yet again. This time the tree said to the boy,
“I wish that I could give you something . . . but I have nothing left. I am just an old stump, I am sorry . . . ” But the boy answered the tree saying, “I don’t need very much now, just a quiet place to sit and rest.” And so the tree replied, “well, an old stump is good for sitting and resting. Come, Boy, sit down. Sit down and rest.” So the boy (who was no longer a boy but an old man) did just that and the story ends with these words, “And the tree was happy.”
So a happy, hopeful ending after all! The tree found that she was still needed by her beloved boy and he had returned. They were spending time together once again. A place and a purpose in every season of life – that is the hope we have. This purpose may look different in each season, just as the tree looked different in every season of her life. But she was never without purpose, even though in her “stump stage” she felt that surely she could serve a purpose no more. It was then that her boy returned and showed her that she was still needed.
I’m thinking (and hoping and believing) that God has a purpose for you and for me, dear readers, in every season of our lives. I confess – some days I feel like that tree stump. Life has a way of cutting us down and moving on. Yet even tree stumps can serve a good purpose in God’s kingdom. King David expressed this in Psalm 84:10 saying,
“I would rather be a doorkeeper in the house of my God than dwell in the tents of the wicked.”
A doorkeeper is considered a lowly position. But David knew even a lowly position in God’s service was better than an exalted position elsewhere. Nothing lowlier than a tree stump – except maybe a stepping stone. One gets sat upon, the other, stepped on. But what a purpose and a privilege to be that place of rest on someone’s journey or that place to put one’s foot to provide safe passage along a perilous path. Stumps and stepping stones share a noble purpose as they are placed by God in people’s paths to help them on their way.
So if you are feeling you don’t have much to offer anyone anymore, remember the Giving Tree. She thought she no longer had a purpose in this life – but she found that she was mistaken. God gives purpose in every season.
“There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under heaven: . . . He has made everything beautiful in its time. He has also set eternity in the hearts of men; yet they cannot fathom what God has done from beginning to end.” (Ecclesiastes 3:1 & 11)
Yes, God has made everything beautiful in its time, even tree stumps and stepping stones.
sincerely, Grace Day