A Lenten Prayer
Lord of our Lent journey,
in these days of mercy, make us quiet and prayerful;
in these days of challenge, make us stronger in you;
in these days of emptiness, take possession of us;
in these days of waiting, open our hearts to the mystery of your cross.
I want to tell you a story about three trees – of course, in stories trees can think, dream, feel emotions and talk to themselves!
Once upon a mountain, three little trees dreamed of what they wanted to become when they grew up.
The first little tree looked up at the stars and said: ‘I want to be a treasure chest, covered with gold and filled with precious stones. I’ll be the most beautiful treasure chest in the world!’
The second little tree looked out at the small stream trickling by on its way to the sea. ‘I want to be a mighty ship and carry powerful kings across the sea. I’ll be the strongest ship in the world!’
The third little tree looked thoughtful. ‘I want to stay on the hillside and grow so tall that when people stop to look at me, they’ll raise their eyes to heaven and think of God. I will be the tallest tree in the world!’
Years passed. The rain came, the sun shone, and the little trees grew tall.
One day three woodcutters arrived on the hillside.
The first woodcutter looked at the first tree and said, ‘This tree is beautiful. It is perfect for me!’ With one swoop of his shining axe, he cut down the first tree. ‘Now I shall be made into a beautiful treasure chest!’ the first tree said.
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 cut down the second tree. ‘Now I shall be made in to a strong ship for mighty kings!’ the second tree said.
The third tree felt her heart sink when the last woodcutter looked her way. She stood straight and tall and pointed bravely to heaven. But the woodcutter never even looked up. ‘Any kind of tree will do for me,’ he muttered. And with a swoop of his shining axe, he cut down the third tree.
The first tree rejoiced when the woodcutter brought her to a carpenter’s shop. But the carpenter made the tree into a feeding trough for the animals. The once beautiful tree was not covered with gold, and not filled with treasure. She was coated with sawdust and filled with hay for hungry animals.
The second tree smiled when the woodcutter took her to a shipyard, but no mighty sailing ship was made that day. Instead, the once strong tree was hammered and sawed into a simple fishing boat. She was too small and weak to sail to on the sea, or even a river, and she was taken to a little lake.
The third tree was confused when the woodcutter cut her into strong beams and left her in a timber yard. ‘What happened?’ the once tall tree wondered. ‘All I ever wanted was to stay on the hillside and point to God.’
Many days and nights passed. The three trees nearly forgot their dreams. But, one night, a golden star poured its light over the first tree as a young woman placed her newborn baby in the feeding trough. ‘I wish I could make a cradle for him,’ her husband whispered. The mother squeezed his hand and smiled as the star shone its light on the smooth and sturdy wood. ‘This manger is beautiful, ‘she said. And suddenly the first tree knew he was holding the greatest treasure in the world.
One evening, a tired traveller and his friends crowded into the old fishing boat. The traveller fell asleep as the second tree quietly sailed out into the lake. Soon a thundering and thrashing storm arose. The little tree shuddered. She knew that she didn’t have the strength to carry so many passengers safely through with the wind and the rain.
The tired man woke up. He stood up, stretched out his hand, and ordered the wind and the waves to be quiet. The storm stopped as quickly as it had begun. And suddenly the second tree knew he was carrying the king of heaven and earth.
One Friday morning, the third tree was startled when her beams were wrenched from the forgotten woodpile. She flinched as she was carried through an angry, jeering crowd. She shuddered when soldiers nailed a man’s hands to her. She felt ugly, harsh and cruel.
But, on Sunday morning when the sun rose and the earth trembled with joy beneath her, the third tree knew that God’s love had changed everything.
And every time people thought of the third tree, they would think of God and be reminded just how much God loves us. And that was better than being the tallest tree in the world.