Recently, my pastor referenced Shel Silverstein’s classic children’s book, The Giving Tree, during a sermon.
The book is a simple story about a tree who loves a little boy, to the point where she literally gives him everything—her apples, her branches, her entire trunk. By the end of the story the tree is left a mere stump, yet she still freely offers herself to the boy-now-old-man who simply wants a quiet place to rest.
I’ve never been quite comfortable with this story, to be honest. The Giving Tree is just that—so giving—but the boy, the boy seems so selfish, so unfeeling. I can’t even recall just now whether the boy ever even says thank you to the tree for all her sacrifices. She loves him and so she gives completely of herself. He takes, and takes, and takes.
But as Christians, my pastor argued, isn’t there something to this story that rings true, that should be celebrated?
We come to our great God, who loves us so tenderly, and really, we don’t have anything to offer. He is beyond abundant and gives graciously to meet our needs and desires; we come only to receive. But we must acknowledge our lack…
I live in a world of this for that. Keeping track of others’ generosities so I can repay or at least adequately thank. I loathe realizing an act of kindness done for me that I forgot to acknowledge. My brain tells me I must not be a taker…I must be a giver, always, or at the very least earn my keep.
Children rarely consider how they can meet others needs. They are unconcerned with the cost of their numerous requests, and they certainly are not scrambling to send off thank you notes
Not once does the Giving Tree ask the boy for something in return for her apples, her branches, her lumber. There are not strings attached to her gifts—she knows the boy has nothing to offer. The tree is delighted in the little boy’s delight, delighted in his desires and her ability to give.
We are invited to come to Jesus as little children. Small. Dependent. Utterly unconcerned with meeting His needs. And he abundantly meets us, delights in our helplessness, and gives and gives and gives.