Root Out Those Stumps

By Marcy Barthelette

Early in the summer, Ken decided that two small trees needed to be removed from our yard, one was a redbud too near the house and the other a peach that just didn’t produce fruit. One day he went out to simply prune some of their limbs but, once he started, nothing would keep him from cutting both of them back to stumps about two feet in height. He decided to wait for cooler weather to dig the stumps. Along came several cool days and he set out with his arsenal of Ozark tools to complete his task.

We had just been blessed with some meaningful rainfall so the digging proved less difficult. The redbud stump was his chosen target on day one and he began to dig soil away from the roots. The two feet of stump he had left behind provided leverage for wiggling the roots back and forth. He clipped roots to free the stump and after a half-hour or so, he was able to pull the root wad from the hole. A few days later, the peach tree fought him harder and had many more roots that were twisted in every direction but he persevered and, once again, he prevailed. A little grass seed, some straw, and faithful watering have filled those empty spaces and we now have a smooth lawn.

What does this short lesson in stump removal have to do with anything? According to, a stump is any basal part remaining after the main or more important part has been removed. In fact, stumps can be an unsightly obstacle and cause injuries to body or soul. Once we become Christians, life doesn’t magically discard all the bad stuff. It leaves behind a collection of stumps. Our walk with God is a constant tug of war between our will to follow His teachings as outlined in the Bible and all the distractions around us that reflect the sinful nature of humans. The sins of our former life reside in our minds as stumps that keep us from positive growth. Paul was very familiar with stumps and the first time I read this scripture I scratched my head with wonder. What was he trying to tell us?

For the good that I will to do, I do not do; but the evil I will not to do, that I practice. Now if I do what
I will not to do, it is no longer I who do it, but sin that dwells in me. Romans 7:19-20 (NKJV)

A later look at a newer translation gave me a much better understanding of Paul’s dilemma. Here’s how the NLT says the same thing.

I want to do what is good, but I don’t. I don’t want to do what is wrong, but I do it anyway. But if I do what I don’t want to do, I am not really the one doing wrong; it is sin living in me that does it.

We have all found ourselves in this same situation. We know what is right, but countless temptations lurk around every corner. Back in the 1990s, the familiar acronym, WWJD, seemed to be on everyone’s lips as well as the jewelry, T-shirts, and caps that became part of our everyday wardrobes. What Would Jesus Do became a household phrase in Christian homes and that reminder that we boldly wore encouraged us to ask the question each time we had a decision to make. In today’s world, that reminder may be even more important. Perhaps Paul had his own way of learning the truth:

For I know the law but still can’t keep it, and if the power of sin within me keeps sabotaging my best intentions, I obviously need help! I realize I don’t have what it takes. The moment I decide
to do good, sin is there to trip me up. I truly delight in God’s commands, but it’s pretty obvious that not all
of me joins in that delight. Parts of me covertly rebel, and just when I least expect it,
they take charge. Excerpted from Romans 7:17-23 (The Message)

I’ve tried everything and nothing helps. I’m at the end of my rope.
Is there no one who can do anything for me? Isn’t that the real question?
The answer, thank God, is that Jesus Christ can and does. He acted to set things right in this life of contradictions where I want to serve God with all my heart and mind, but am pulled by the influence of sin to do something totally different. Romans 7:24-25 (The Message)

The stumps we tackle daily are no different from the ones Paul faced. Our lives may have an outward appearance that differs from his time but many of the distractions that we face are very similar in nature.

Stumps in the yard create an obstacle we must always workaround. By removing them we create a clean palette where new grass can flourish. Stump removal within our hearts and minds creates a temporary void that is fertile for the development of something positive. Let’s root out those bright and shining distractions that keep us from positive growth and replace them with qualities that are real─not glitzy….or, in keeping with our theme, ugly as stumps!

“When we try to live in Jesus’ footsteps, things get put into perspective. The highs and lows that
used to turn our heads can begin to lose their power. And the quiet, still, unsung moments
can excite our hearts. The joy of Jesus creeps upon us.
Bear Grylls…from Soul Fuel

One Response to “Root Out Those Stumps”

  1. E Janet Bell says:

    I had an old stump that had been near my flowerbeds for years. I just planted ivy and let it grow over the stump. However this year when I was working in my lilies, I found that a copperhead had taken up residence in that stump – living in a small hole underneath it. So, not wanting a dangerous snake to be so near, I finally got rid of that stump – and his home. So this illustrates how important it is for us to get rid of those stumps in our Christian lives – as they can be dangerous.

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