We read a lot of books this week about things relating to Christmas and Jesus coming to this earth, but out of all the books represented, one has lingered in my heart and thoughts for the past few days. I began a blog post a few days ago that went something like this…
I got to work early this morning because I knew it was going to be a busy day and I wanted to be prepared. Lying on my desk was the book I was supposed to read to my preschool and Kindergarten students. I had read over the book before and was familiar with it, but knowing I would be reading it to the children who were already wiggly and excited about Christmas break and all the activities, I thought I better get more closely acquainted with the story and possibly act it out instead of just reading through it.
As I read the book, I had a hard time holding back the tears. The Legend of the Three Trees depicts the story from the perspective of these three trees that are cut down to create three different objects all fitting into the life of Jesus. As I read about each tree, I could not help but apply the story to my life and my wants and desires. It was as if God was gently whispering to me that He knew the desires of my heart, but the things He wanted to do in my life would bring about a very different outcome than if I followed my own plans and dreams.
The first tree had great dreams and plans that it would be chopped down and made into a treasure chest filled with gold and jewels and encrusted with precious stones. It would bring happiness to all who possessed it. The second tree wanted to be a great ship and travel and carry precious cargo to countries around the world. The third tree wanted nothing more than to be left standing and to grow straight and tall and be beautiful right where it was and to spend its days there looking out over the hill.
What actually happened to the three trees was quite different than they had dreamed. They were all chopped down and separated. The first tree ended up as a feed box for cattle and other barn animals. The second tree became a small fishing boat. The third tree was cut into long boards and stacked in a lumber yard to be used at a later date. None of them achieved the dreams they had envisioned and hoped for all their lives.
The story continued…one night in the barn, the feed box became a manger and inside it held the most precious gift that earth could ever receive…the baby Jesus. Many years later, the same fishing boat supported the feet of a man who cried “Peace. Be Still!” calming the storm and bringing the boat safely to land. A few months later, the third tree found two of its beams placed together to form a cross that supported our Savior and the tree once again found itself on a hill overlooking the earth, but also raising up a sinless sacrifice that would end the repeated need for atonement for our sins.
Three destinies…but oh, so different from what they had planned.
It has spoken to my heart over and over again since I read the story. Each time I acted out the story for my little ones, the message ingrained itself more deeply into my heart and soul. Each destiny became a part of who I am and where I am at this point in my life.
For you see, I have wanted to possess great wealth and to be able to make those happy who came in contact with me. I wanted to be able to give financially to those in need. I wanted to be able to make great things happen. But, I did not consider that instead of giving out great wealth, I needed to be filled with it, and that only then, would I have something to give.
You see, the first tree thought of wealth only as something recognized by its appearance of gold and encrusted jewels. That tree only thought it could give happiness by allowing others to take from it, when in reality, the most precious gift was placed inside it and only then could it reach out and bring happiness to those around it.
I have wanted to travel and seek adventure upon many shores, in many lands. I have wanted to experience life to the fullest and be able to say I have visited country after country and state after state and enjoyed all of God’s majesty and the wonders this world has to offer. That has been a desire of my heart for a long time; however, I have found myself in a small pond, or lake, or sea, with a limited choice of destination. Life has allowed me some liberties, but mostly I have been confined to the task at hand. It could get a little stinky like all those dead fish and it could become monotonous at times.
Perhaps, I didn’t realize that it is not the destination that provides the adventure or miraculous event, but it is the situation and opportunity that allows miracles to be performed. The second tree experienced a traumatic event that lead to a miraculous occurrence, for it is only in the storm that Jesus can calm the waters. Without the storm there would have been no need for Jesus to speak and take control of the situation. It is Who is in the boat that counts, not the location of the boat.
And, most of all, I can relate to the third tree. Change is difficult. When you are comfortable and you just want to stay in one place and grow and view things from a certain perspective, it hurts to be chopped down, stripped of your bark, limbs, and leaves, and cut into planks. The view changes and for a while you may see only a stack of dusty lumber. You cannot feel the wind as it blows through your branches. You cannot feel the sun as it beats down and warms your leaves. You cannot softly sway in the breeze and watch as others enjoy a picnic under your shade. You are stacked in a pile in waiting mode. Everything in life as you know it has changed. The bark has been taken away and you are lying there with nothing familiar and no idea what will happen next, if anything at all.
I think that must have been how the third tree felt. All it wanted was to remain where it was. I have felt like that so many times lately. I have gotten comfortable and when I began to feel a little chop beginning to shake my foundation, I have wanted to find a way to retreat. Fear of the unknown loomed over me and threatened my peace.
Of all the trees, the third tree must have had such mixed emotions about its role in life. To be chosen to be the cross that crucified Jesus was both glorious and horrible. To contribute to the Savior’s death by being the instrument used to crucify Him was never anything the tree wanted to be in life. To cause pain to the One who loved and created it was such an ironic destiny.
I am sure the tree would have wept if it had the capability because becoming a cross would have been the furthest thing from its heart’s desire. Yet, when the blood of Jesus began to seep out and onto that cross, I cannot help but believe the tree felt its wood begin to tingle and as the blood covered it, something rose up in the tree and it began to realize there was much more to this than just a terrible ordeal leading to death. The view from this hill was majestic in a very different sort of way. The darkness, earthquake, thunder and lightning all bear witness that surely this was the Messiah and the realization of the importance of the moment began to permeate the tree.
What if the tree had been left standing on the hill? It would never have experienced the salvation of the world through the death of Jesus. It would have been beautiful just as it was, but it would not have known of the events, the suffering, the agony, or the miraculous resurrection that covered the sins of the entire earth.
I don’t know about you, but I have dreams and desires. I have mentioned this in my previous paragraphs. I have goals that I would like to achieve and I have plans that I would like to follow through with at certain points in my life. However, my desires and plans and dreams are from the finite thinking and keyhole perspective that only I can see.
God’s ways are higher than our ways. His plans may include some chopping. They may include removing me completely from certain situations or changing my view. I may have to wait at some points. I may be disappointed when greater adventures and opportunities pass me by while I float on a small pond with the smell of stinky fish all around me. I may have to serve. I may have to work. I may have to leave all that is comfortable.
I am not sure. I just know that if I yield myself to God’s plan for my life instead of viewing things from my own selfish perspective, I will find the original destination was so very limited compared to what God wants to do with my life.
God loves me and knows the desires of my heart, but even more than that, He knows how to fulfill them in a way that I never dreamed possible. The picture may look a little different than I had anticipated, but the end result will be beyond what I can imagine.
Help me to place my life in Your hands and allow You to do with me as you see fit. Show me that dreaming is good, but only You can take those dreams and make them into something more beautiful and purposeful than I can ever imagine. Help me to look past the situation to see the miraculous. Help me to realize that a simple manger, a small boat, and two beams of wood can be used to change the lives of the entire world. In Your hands, in your time, let me be all that You want me to be for You.
In Jesus’ name,
Until next time,