The Tale of Three Trees

A morality tale that fits the season and provides a thoughtful lesson for those of us who have big dreams, great disappointments, or long periods of waiting and longing.

3 TreesThis past week my wife had the chance to read a story of her choosing as a guest reader in one of our grandchildren’s Christian preschool classes.

What she read to them was The Tale of Three Trees, a traditional folktale that for generations has been handed down from parents to children and retold in churches at Christmas and Easter – even set to music, song and video.1

Here is the summarized story below. I have added my own paragraph headings to highlight the narrative.

                                                    The Tale of Three Trees 
Once upon a mountaintop, three little trees stood and dreamed of what they wanted to become when they grew up.

Hopes and Dreams 
The first tree looked up at the stars twinkling like diamonds above him and said, “Someday I hope to be a treasure chest. People could fill me with gold, silver and precious gems. They could decorate me with intricate carvings and everyone would see its beauty.”

“I will be the most beautiful treasure chest in the world!”

The second tree looked out at the small stream trickling by on the way to the ocean and said, “Someday I will be a mighty ship. I will take kings and queens across the seas and sail to unknown places. Everyone will feel safe because of the strength of my hull.”

“I will be the strongest ship in the world!”

Finally, the third tree looked down into the valley below where busy men and busy women worked in a busy town and said, “I want to grow to be the tallest and straightest tree in the forest. People will see me on top of a hill and raise their eyes to heaven and think of God.”

“I will be the tallest tree in the world.”

Life and Reality 
Years passed. The rains came, the sun shone, and the little trees grew tall. One day three woodcutters climbed the mountain.

The first woodcutter looked at the first tree and said, “This looks like a strong tree. I can sell the wood to a carpenter.” After being cut down, the tree was happy because he knew that the carpenter would make him into a treasure chest.

The second woodcutter looked at the second tree a woodsman said, “This looks like a strong tree. I can sell it to the shipyard.” The second tree was happy because he knew he was on his way to becoming a mighty ship.

When the woodsmen came upon the third tree, the tree was frightened because he knew that if they cut him down, his dreams would not come true. A woodsman said, “I don’t need anything special from this tree so I’ll just take it back with me.”

When the first tree arrived at the carpenters, they made it into a feed box for animals. It was then placed in a barn and filled with hay. They cut the second tree and made a small fishing boat. They cut the third tree into large beams and left them alone in a lumberyard.

Time and New Perspective 
The years went by, and the three trees nearly forgot their dreams. Then one day, a man and woman came to the barn. She gave birth and they placed the baby in the feed box made from the first tree. As the starlight shone on the smooth and sturdy wood, the tree could feel the importance of this event.

Now the tree knew that it was holding the greatest treasure of all time.

Years later, a group of men got in the fishing boat made from the second tree. One man went to sleep. A great storm arose and the tree didn’t think it was strong enough to keep the men safe. The men woke the sleeping man. He stood and said “Be calm” and the storm stopped as quickly as it had begun.

And suddenly the tree knew that he was carrying the King of heaven and earth.

Finally, someone came and got the third tree. It was carried through the streets as the people mocked the man who was carrying it. Later, they nailed the man to the tree and raised him up to die at the top of a hill. On the third day, the tree knew that God’s love had changed everything.

It had made the first tree beautiful. It had made the second tree strong. And every time people thought of the third tree made into a cross, they would always think of God

And that was better than being the tallest tree in the world.

God’s Plan and Transformation 
The moral is this: We all have dreams and plans that, when surrendered to God, may turn out very different from what we imagine. But God has a plan for each of us and loves us deeply. Even when things are not going our way, know that God will never forsake us. In the long run, God’s will is the better way. We do well to dream with confidence in God-given desires combined with trust in God to achieve His will in due time.

Have a Merry Christmas season!

Being confident of this, that He Who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus. – Philippians 1:6

1 The Tale of Three Trees, a Traditional Folktale, retold by Angela Elwell Hunt, David C. Cook, Colorado Springs, CO 1989.

Categories: Abundant Living, Calling, Christmas, Devotion, Discipleship, Easter, Faith, Holidays, Jesus, Marketplace, Prayer, Purpose, Resurrection, Suffering, The Church, Theology

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