The Story of the Three Trees

(An   American folk-tale adapted from the out-of-print book The Tale of Three Trees   retold by Angela Elwell Hunt, Lion Publishing 1989.)  

Once upon a mountaintop,   three little trees stood and dreamed of what they wanted to become when they   grew up. The first little tree looked up at the stars twinkling like diamonds   above him. “I want to hold treasure,” he said. ” I want to be   covered with gold and filled with precious stones. I want to be the most beautiful   treasure chest in the world!”
  The second little tree looked out at river flowing on its way to the ocean.   “I want to be a mighty sailing ship, ” she said. “I want to travel   dangerous waters and carry powerful kings. I will be the strongest ship in the   world!”
  The third little tree looked down into the valley below where busy men and busy   women worked in a busy town. ” I don’t want to leave this mountaintop at   all, ” he said. ” I want to grow so tall that when people stop to   look at me they will raise their eyes to heaven and think of God. I will be   the tallest tree in the world!”

Years passed. The   rains came, the sun shone, and the little trees grew tall. Then one day three   woodcutters climbed the mountain and saw the three tall trees.

The first woodcutter   looked at the first tree and said, ” This tree is beautiful. It is perfect   for me.” With a swoop of his shining axe he cut down the first tree. “Now   I shall be made into a beautiful treasure chest,” thought the first tree.   ” I shall hold wonderful treasure.”
  The second woodcutter looked at the second tree and said, “This tree is   strong. It is perfect for me.” With a swoop of his shining axe, he chopped   down the second tree. “Now I shall sail mighty waters, ” thought the   second tree. ” I shall be a strong ship fit for kings!”
  The third tree felt his heart sink when the last woodcutter looked his way.   He stood straight and tall and pointed bravely skyward toward heaven. But the   woodcutter never even looked up. “Any tree will do for me, ” he muttered   and with a swoop of his shining axe, the third tree fell down to the ground.

  The first tree rejoiced when the woodcutter brought him to a carpenter’s shop,   but the busy carpenter was not thinking about treasure chests, gold or jewels.   Instead he used his work-worn hands to make the tree into a feed box for animals.   The once-beautiful tree was not covered with gold or filled with jewels and   treasure. He was coated with sawdust and filled with hay for hungry farm animals.
  The second tree smiled when the woodcutter took him to a shipyard, but no mighty   sailing ships were made that day. Instead the once strong tree was cut up and   hammered into a small fishing boat. Too small and too weak to sail an ocean   or even a river, he was put into a little lake. Every day simple fishermen got   on board and filled him with loads of dead smelly fish.
  And the third tree? The third tree was confused for the woodcutter cut him into   strong beams and just left him in the lumberyard. “What happened?”   the once-tall tree wondered. ” All I ever wanted to do was stay on the   mountaintop and point to God.”

Many, many days and   nights passed and the three trees nearly forgot about their dreams. Then one   night golden starlight poured over the first tree as a young woman placed her   newborn baby in the feed box. “I wish I could make a cradle for him,”   her husband whispered. The mother squeezed his hand and smiled as the starlight   shone on the smooth and sturdy wood. “This manger is beautiful for our   little Jesus,” she said. And suddenly the first tree knew he was holding   the greatest treasure in the entire world.

One evening years   after that, a tired traveler and his twelve friends crowded into the old fishing   boat. The traveler fell asleep as the second tree quietly sailed out into the   lake. Soon a thundering and thrashing storm arose. The other men in the boat   started screaming in fear that they would all perish! The tree shuddered. She   knew she did not have the strength to carry so many passengers safely through   the wind and rain.
  The tired man awakened. He stood up, stretched out his hand, and said, “Peace.”   The storm stopped as quickly as it had begun. And suddenly the second tree knew   she was carrying the real King, the King of Heaven and Earth.

A little late on   a Friday morning, the third tree was startled when his beams were yanked from   the forgotten woodpile. He flinched as he was carried through an angry, jeering   crowd. He couldn’t believe it when soldiers nailed a man’s hands to him. He   felt ugly and harsh and cruel. But on Sunday morning, when the sun rose and   the earth trembled with joy beneath him, the third 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, they would think of God.

That was better than   being the tallest tree in the world!