“The Giving Tree follows the life of an apple tree and a boy who are able to communicate with each other; the tree addresses the human as “Boy” his entire life. In his childhood, the boy enjoys playing with the tree, climbing her trunk, swinging from her branches, and eating her apples. However, as time passes he starts to make requests of the tree.
After entering adolescence, the boy wants money; the tree suggests that he pick and sell her apples, which he does. After reaching adulthood, the boy wants a house; the tree suggests he cut her branches to build a house, which he does. After reaching middle age, the boy wants a boat; the tree suggests he cut her trunk to make a boat, which he does, leaving only a stump. Each such stage of giving by the tree ends with the sentence “And the tree was happy.”
In the final pages, the boy (now a shriveled old grandpa) meets the tree once more. The tree sadly states she has nothing left to give, as her apples, branches, and trunk are gone and only a stump remains. But the boy wants only “a quiet place to sit and rest,” which the stump can provide. This final stage of giving, and the entire story, end with the sentence “And the tree was happy.” (Source: Wikipedia).
Author Shel Silverstein had difficulty finding a publisher for The Giving Tree – being rejected because editors felt that it was “too sad” for children and “too simple” for adults. It is a heart warming book that nevertheless became one of the “All-Time Bestselling Children’s Books” according to Publishers Weekly. I would not want to vault it to level of profound parable, but there is a thread that runs through it that has the echo of something eternal.
The Giving Gift:
In that theme I point you to Thomas Smail who wrote The Giving Gift as part of his theological trilogy on the Trinity (beginning with his book on Jesus, God the Son: Reflected Glory, and The Forgotten Father, written between 1975 and 1988). By the time Smail writes The Giving Gift, he has refined his understanding of the person of the Holy Spirit in the Trinity:
First question: What does the Holy Spirit do within the God-man relationship?
Answer: He gives the things of God and the things of Christ to us.
Second question: Who is the Holy Spirit?
Answer: Within the God-man relationship He is the one who is given to us primarily by the Father and secondarily by the Son, and within the life of God Himself, He is primarily the Gift of the Father to the Son and secondarily the responsive Gift of the Son to the Father.
If you haven’t clicked off by now, I wonder what keeps you reading? Are you the kind of person aware of the significance of the person of the Holy Spirit (not reduced from personhood to some unknowable or impersonal “power”), or do you hear the echo of eternity? Do you recognize the essential generosity of the Living God – that His Spiritual nature is to be a giving gift?
A. W. Tozer said:
What we think about God is the most important thing about us.
That’s quite a statement, but upon decades of observation, I recognize how true this is: how we conceive Him to be – whether made in our own image, in the image of other religions, in no image as an atheist, or in the true image that He is continually giving as revelation of Himself – there is a related ethic and lifestyle that logically follows. As a person does, so one can follow the line back to the roots of how they conceive God to be.
Therefore it is not a small thing to think (more) rightly about who God is. Through the revelation of Jesus Christ, we have come to understand God to be Triune: Three persons as One God in eternal communion. But what can a theological summary do for anyone?
When Jesus encounters the Biblical and legal experts of His day, He says:
You search the Scriptures because you think they give you eternal life. But the Scriptures point to me!
The Scriptures say that those who are led by the Spirit of God are the children of God – the Spirit you received by adoption allows you to cry, “Abba, Father.” The Spirit himself testifies with your spirit that we are God’s children. And the impetus to say “Jesus is Lord“ comes too, from the Spirit of God.
Who is the Holy Spirit? He is the giving gift – He is the One who is given to us by the Father and the Son – He is primarily the Gift of the Father to the Son and secondarily the responsive Gift of the Son to the Father – and He continually gives revelation of the Father and the Son in relationship with Him. He gives gifts to build up the body and for the life of the world.
Prelude to Gratefulness:
I write all this by way of my personal gratefulness to the Triune God of Life for the giving gift He’s given me: tomorrow is the birthday of my son Nathan – whose name comes from the Hebrew verb נתן meaning: to give. I have lived in happy friendship with a boy who became a man, and who has been a giving gift in the world God has placed him.
When he was very young there was a period where he became inexplicably ill and could not hold food in. It is a terribly vulnerable thing to watch your child evaporate, to be continually ill, and for you as a parent to be helpless against the tide of inevitability. We were too young as parents to know much more than to visit a doctor and to pray. What seemed like a long time is now such a long time ago. Today we celebrate his birth, and more: his life active in our own. What more could we have asked for?
At each stage of giving by the tree ends with the sentence ‘And the tree was happy.’
May my giving tree son be happy; for I am very happy.
For more see Mysteries and Secrets.