My boys and I are cuddled on the couch with the book everyone says we have to read, The Giving Tree. Before I start, I make sure the book is completely centered because reading at their age is all about the pictures. “Okay guys! Everyone says this book is ah-ma-zing, so let’s take every- one’s word for it and read it today!”
The book begins sweetly. A small boy becomes friends with an apple tree. He is content to be in her presence, sitting in her shade, climbing her limbs, and enjoying her sweet apples. But soon he grows up and needs more from the tree than simple enjoyment. First, he needs money, so the tree happily offers him her apples to sell. The boy disappears for a while but returns later because he needs to build a house. My heart becomes heavy, and my eyes start to water because I know where this is going. I start to cry. My kids look up at me confused, but I compose myself to read this “great” book. The tree happily offers him her wood, which the boy is happy to harvest. He leaves again and forgets about the kind tree because she has nothing left to offer but her stump. Now, tears are flowing down my face. I’m not sure my kids are getting the symbolism, but they begin to stroke my arm to comfort me. He doesn’t return to see the tree until he is an old man. Perhaps he is all alone in this world, so in his loneliness, he remembers his forgotten friend, now only a stump. When he arrives, the tree apologizes for having nothing left to give the boy, but the old man wants to sit on her stump. And the tree is happy.
“Boys, how did you like that book?” I ask.
“Good” is their unified reaction. The symbolism is completely over their head, and they don’t know what to do with their teary-eyed mom . . . so they slide off the couch and start playing.
But I just sit. I’m mesmerized by the sketch drawing of the boy taking one apple from the happy tree. My kids play and scream behind me, but I’m deep in thought. I am convicted. The boy feels like me. I feel like a taker in my friendships. I don’t want to be, but deep down, I know I’m more like the boy than the tree. I want to be the happy giving tree, but I know I’m not. As I sit, my sin self speaks to me, “The tree is the fool, not the boy. What person in their right mind would give everything to a selfish boy who doesn’t appreciate the gift or the giver? Getting is gaining. Giving is a risk that will come back to haunt you.”
When I travel and speak, friendship is always a hot topic. I’ve noticed we are struggling to do friendships well. We are afraid to give too much. We are afraid someone will take advantage of us, talk about us behind our backs, share our deepest, darkest secrets, bully us. Or perhaps we’re afraid to love someone who might later trade our friendship in for a newer, fresher model. Are you a little bit afraid of friendships? I know it’s scary, but if we want to love Jesus better in our friendships, we have to start trying. We have to believe giving, not getting, is gaining.
You have just read an exerpt from Sharie's newest book I Love You More (except when I don't) - Fighting to Keep Jesus First in the chapter I Love You More Than My Position. If you have enjoyed this and would like to continue reading you can purchase this book on Amazon and in the Store on this site.