Stephanie Rische

Stubbing My Toe on Grace

Tree Funerals and Other Necessary Endings June 7, 2013

Filed under: Relationships — Stephanie Rische @ 1:03 pm
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I’ve been to too many tree funerals lately.


First it was the big old elm tree in my parents’ front yard—the Climbing Tree, all of us kids called it.


I’d always thought the Giving Tree was a little over the top about a hunk of deadwood…until I found out my own Climbing Tree’s days were numbered.


It was the perfect tree for a kid, with its low, sturdy limbs to get you started and plenty of compact branches to perch on. After a summer day full of playing outside or helping my parents in the garden, I’d bring my book into the tree and sit in my reading spot—a “V” between branches that was cozy enough for me to be able to turn the pages of the next Anne of Green Gables book without having to hang on.




It was the first tree to turn gold in the fall, marking the commencement of my favorite season and ushering in my birthday. The tree was also my first glimpse of home when I returned from college, those sweeping branches beckoning welcome to a homesick heart.


So when my parents told me it was time to take down the old tree, I weakly argued for them to let it stand a little longer (after all, it still had six green leaves on it!). Deep down I knew it was time, but there’s inherent sadness that comes with taking an ax to something that was once so vibrant and full of life. It wasn’t just the end of the tree; it was the end of an era.


One day not long after my parents’ announcement about the Climbing Tree, I arrived home at my own place to find that all the trees lining our street had been systematically mowed down by orders of the city—casualties of the ash borer infestation. The stump of each tree had been spray-painted with neon letters that read “OK,” apparently an indication that there were no lingering signs of the guilty little vermin. But as I walked around our post-apocalyptic neighborhood inspecting each spot that had once held a tall symbol of life, I wanted to scream, “No! It’s not okay!”




I’ve been reading a book by Henry Cloud called Necessary Endings, and in it he talks about how sometimes we have to do the hard work of chopping down projects and relationships whose season has past.


“Good cannot begin until bad ends,” he says. “Endings are not only part of life; they are a requirement for living and thriving, professionally and personally. Being alive requires that we sometimes kill off things in which we were once invested, uproot what we previously nurtured, and tear down what we built for an earlier time.”


Cloud says there are three categories of things that may need to end:

1. Healthy buds or branches that are not the best ones

2. Sick branches that are not going to get well

3. Dead branches that are taking up space needed for the healthy ones to thrive


As painful as endings are, we are wise to make the tough call and end these things now, before more damage is done.


Are there some necessary endings you need to bring about in your life?

  • Do you have a vampire-friend who is slowly sucking the life out of you?
  • Is there a relationship you know you should end but you’re hanging on to it because you’re afraid to be alone?
  • Is there some commitment that was once life giving but its season is now up?
  • Has God made it clear that your time at your job has come to an end, but fear is holding you back?


Necessary Endings are painful because we know the chainsaw is going to hurt. And once the tree is gone, it will leave behind a gaping hole—one we’ll likely tumble into for some time.


But as tempting as it is to put off the pain, delaying a needed ending only makes things worse. After all, the pain is there as a megaphone, telling us something needs to change. Henry Cloud puts it this way: “Pain by its nature is a signal that something is wrong, and action is required. So pain should be driving you to do something to end it.”


Here’s the thing: there won’t be a place to plant a new, healthy tree if the old diseased one stays there.


Is there a Necessary Ending you need to bring about so you can make way for a New Beginning? If so, let me know how I can pray for you as you rev up your chainsaw.