Years ago, author Angela Elwell Hunt wrote a classic called The Tale of Three Trees. It has been adapted for many a holiday to inspire hope, and I thought it’s a good time to retell this story to help bring some peace during these most unsettling times. I hope that whatever it is you are facing; the paraphrasing of this tale will bid you to fight on.
Three young trees lived in the forest, and one day they were discussing their dreams.
The first tree said, “When I grow up, I want to be a treasure chest. I want to be carved with intricate designs and filled with gold, jewels, and other great treasures.”
The second tree said, “When I grow up, I want to be a mighty ship. I want to carry kings and queens, and if a storm should arise, they can be confident in my strength.”
The third tree said that he wanted to become the tallest tree in the forest. That way, when people looked up to him, they would admire just how close to God he was.
As the years went by, three woodsmen came into the forest. The one cut down the first tree and said, “This is a strong tree. I should be able to sell it to a carpenter.” And the first tree was confident he was on his way to becoming a treasure chest.
One approached the second tree and said, “This looks like a strong tree. I think I can sell it to a shipyard.” And the second tree believed he was on his way to becoming a mighty ship.
The last man approached the third tree, and to the third tree’s great disappointment, he heard the man say, “I have no need for this tree, but I will cut it down in the event that a need should arise.”
When the first tree got to the carpenter, they were not making treasure chests. Instead, they were making feedboxes, so they placed him in a barn where animals would eat from him. Over the years, he learned to love those barn animals.
When the second tree got to the shipyard, they were not making mighty ships. Instead, they made him into a small fishing boat and placed him on a lake where he spent the day with smelly fishermen. Over time, he grew to have compassion for those men who worked long, hard hours, often with truly little success.
The third was simply cut up into large pieces and left to be alone in the dark. But he learned to appreciate the few glimpses of light that would break through the cracks of where he was housed.
Many years went by, and each tree grew accustomed to its lot in life, accepting the reality of what was instead of what could have been.
One day, a man and woman walked into the barn where the feedbox was. There was something special about the couple but even more special about the baby they were carrying. The feedbox listened as the man spoke to the woman.
“Mary,” the man said, “I am so sorry we have no place to lay our baby, Jesus. This manger will have to do.”
It was then that the feedbox realized he was holding the greatest treasure of all time.
A few years later, some fishermen got into the small fishing boat and rowed it to the middle of a lake where a great storm arose. The small fishing boat panicked because he knew he was not strong enough to keep the men safe. But he heard the men call out to a man that was sleeping on the boat: “Master, carest thou not that we perish?”
And the sleeping man woke up and called out to the wind and waves, “Peace. Be still.”
To the astonishment of the boat, the storm obeyed the man. It was then that the small fishing boat knew he was carrying the King of Kings and the Lord of Lords.
A few years later, someone rushed into the place where the large pieces of wood were kept and fashioned the pieces into the shape of a cross. They threw the cross onto the back of a man named Jesus and made Him march to the top of a hill. There, they nailed Him to the cross. Before Jesus died, the tree heard Him promise another man next to Him that He would not forget him when he entered His Kingdom. The third tree realized that he had experienced a closeness with God because he was covered by His blood.
Life is not always easy. May you find some happiness in what seems to be the smallest of things. May you have the courage amid adversity and crisis to not give in or give up. And if you are willing to trust God with a faith that is the size of one of the smallest of seeds, a mustard seed, He has promised that you will not be ashamed.