It seemed like a rather small task - removing a tree stump remaining since I cut a tree down years ago. It was only small in circumference, and as the tree had been cut off at ground level, there didnít seem to be much left to remove. It was an added bonus that the ground sloped away just beyond the stump, which meant I could cut in underneath to pry it loose. Or so I thought.
A couple of hours and six blisters later, I stood before a defiant stump, fully exposed to the elements. It now sat over half a metre out of the ground, and broadened at the base. Its roots were thick and defiant, holding onto the ground with all its strength, occasionally throwing the head of the mattock back into the air when I had swung it down. I am currently sitting at my desk, while the stump remains where it has stood for years.
When I first saw the tree it was on its last legs. Most of the limbs were dead, and the ensuing years saw little signs of new life. It was never green with leaves. Clearly it had was at the end of its life. With the aid of a chainsaw and a full day, this once lively tree was cut down and carted away. Except for the stump. When builders worked on the property, they found no need to remove it, simply working past it. Laying a driveway need not have been a problem to the tree stump either, but it needed to go. It stood in the way of further development.
How much this little stump epitomises the journey of faith. Those moments when God puts His tender hand on a part of our life and tells us that it is time for it to go Ė it now brings more death than life to us. It might be an attitude or an activity, but it has long since been healthy for us. Maybe it never was. We take the chainsaw to it to break the status quo, getting rid of a grudge, cutting out a bad habit, letting go of the past. After the hard work, we gain a sense of relief at it having been done.
But the job is not over. Below the surface lie the remnants which can either spring to life, or stand in the way of the future. The stump remains an impediment to new growth and new shape, and must be removed. Again we turn our heart to God in order to complete the transformation, knowing that the inner person is as important as the outer view held by others, perhaps more so, for its is the source of peace.
The process of transformation is always ongoing. Even when the stump is removed, there stands the need to cultivate something more.
God is never finished with us.
July 6, 2003