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!