What good can come from an old, dead stump?

Ever notice old, dead stumps? I do. In fact I’ve noticed them in various places around the world. Sometimes I even take photos of them, like the one pictured. I saw this one two weeks ago in a western state of India. Now the reader may find this strange, but remember I also love to wander in cemeteries and read the gravestones!

The thing about old, dead stumps is that they aren’t dead. Try looking into one and you will notice various new growths coming out. Sometimes little green shoots, or luxurious plants. But usually you have to look closer. Much closer.

Sound like our lives sometime? We feel during certain seasons a wearying paralysis, a feeling almost of a dying going on. A dying or death of hopes, dreams, relationships. We feel like an old (or young) dead stump. The news around us leads us to exhaustion, perhaps the death of someone we love deadens our soul.

But here’s the incredible thing. Out of death can come new life. Out of the worst seasons can come a grace of future hope and new life. As Christians we call it the Paschal mystery, the fact that the cross of Jesus Christ and the death process leads to the resurrection. New life. It is built into the very heart of the universe, and into our own hearts.

A few years ago I heard someone relate a story that deeply impacted me. This man was going to speak to a church youth camp out in the wilderness. He was in a season of deep discouragement, feeling empty and tired. He wanted to say no to the organizers, but felt like he couldn’t back out. So he arrived with a heavy heart. What could he say? 

He had a couple hours before dinner and the first meeting, so he decided to take a walk in the woods. He tried to pray, but there was nothing there. Finally he laid down in the brush on his face, completely spent. As he laid there he had noticed that he was right in front of an old, dead stump. A still, small voice then echoed in his soul with these words: “What do you see?”

All he could see as he raised his eyes was this dead stump. The voice in his soul then said, “Look closer!” He got up a bit and looked, but all he saw was a rotting dead stump. Again the voice came, “Look closer!” Now he was bent over the stump looking inside. That was when he saw it. An almost unnoticeable, little green shoot coming out of the stump. 

A deep weeping rose out of the depths of this man. He saw life, however small, growing from the dead, rotting stump. He wept for a while, as new life flowed like streams from his inner being. When he got up that day, something had changed. His life challenges were still there, for sure, but the way he looked at and faced them was now very different. His message that night and the coming days to the youth camp was filled with new hope and power.

What do we see when we look closer? At our own lives, at others, at our nations or organizations? Signs of decay and death? Look closer. You may see a little green shoot of new life yet. 

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