Last night I peeked in my boys’ room — as I do most nights — and I saw my oldest still clinging to the day, awake. He was hanging a brightly-colored hard-cover book over his head at such an angle as to read by the tiniest sliver of light from the hallway. Many times I’ve peeked in only to find this same book laying across his face as he snored. Thankfully he’s a deep sleeper.
My wife and I have always tried to read to our kids before bed, and a favorite of mine has always been The Giving Tree by Shel Silverstein. In it a tree and a certain boy grow old together.
The boy spent his youth joyously playing in the leaves and climbing branches.
And the tree was happy to give. And give. And give.
Even offering itself so that the boy could live and thrive. Until, having given all it can, the Tree had nothing left to offer but a place to rest. And by then, it was exactly what the boy needed.
And the tree was happy.
The tree is selfless and the boy — well, we’re not sure about the boy. Some say The Giving Tree is about the love of a parent, others say it’s about the selfishness of the child. Perhaps it’s about both. Regardless, it tells beautifully of the gift of an abiding, generous, love.
I’ve heard that if you chop down a tree and look inside you can see the lines of years upon years. Each line a moment in time. Thousands upon thousands of stories, told and untold, contained within a the body of a tree. Even in death, the tree lives, and never without hope:
“For a tree there is always hope. Chop it down and it still has a chance – its roots can put out fresh sprouts. Even if its roots are old and gnarled, its stump long dormant, At the first whiff of water it comes to life, buds and grows like a sapling.” – Job 14:7-9
The book that my son held aloft in his bunk bed is this illustrated Bible he was given for Christmas a couple years ago. He reads it most nights. It, too, tells beautifully of the gift of an abiding, generous, love. And I can’t help but notice that it’s a book full of trees.
In the beginning God sustains us by the Tree of Life, and we reject Him, selfishly gnawing at the fruit of a different sort of tree and clutching empty-handed at the illusion of self-sufficiency.
But God gives. And gives. And gives.
Even offering Himself so that we might live and thrive.
A giving God, hanging on a tree.
The Giving Tree.
A reminder that we are after all, the boy.
Taking. And taking. And taking.
And, like the boy, we chopped down the Tree.
And the Tree was happy.
Why? Resurrection. Hope. Fresh sprouts of hope spring up at the whiff of water, the growth and buds of a sapling burst up from the dirt. From the vine come branches, from the tree comes fruit. From a resurrected Son of God the saplings of the tree take root.
Once a petulant boy, so badly needing rest from our endless efforts to take for ourselves what the Tree freely gives, now we are a tree. Roots buried deep in the ground and though our branches may sway with the wind they are filled with stories told and untold. Each line a moment in time.
Because today, Good Friday, we see the horrific cost of grace. The Giving Tree.
And we are reminded that we are no longer to be the boy, but saplings.
Resurrected so that we might give. And give. And give.
Even offering ourselves so that the world God has given us might live and thrive.
So that we might invite the world, exhausted from its taking, into a quiet place to sit and rest. And clinging to the sliver of light offered us by the hope of dawn’s rising Son, we’ll reach the end of our story. And the beginning of a new one.
And we’ll be happy.
“Then the angel showed me the river of the water of life, bright as crystal, flowing from the throne of God and of the Lamb through the middle of the street of the city; also, on either side of the river, the tree of life with its twelve kinds of fruit, yielding its fruit each month. The leaves of the tree were for the healing of the nations. No longer will there be anything accursed, but the throne of God and of the Lamb will be in it, and his servants will worship him. They will see his face, and his name will be on their foreheads. And night will be no more. They will need no light of lamp or sun, for the Lord God will be their light, and they will reign forever and ever.” – Rev 22:1-5
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