There were once three trees standing next to each other on top of a hill. As the breeze blew through their leaves, the trees would talk to each other, sharing their hopes and dreams.
The first tree would say, “my wood will be strong and shiny. Someday, a talented artist will use it to make the most beautiful treasure chest you have ever seen”.
The second tree would sigh and say in a wistful voice, “my wood will be long and strong. Someday a master engineer will use it to build the finest, most luxurious ship the world has ever seen”.
The third tree would sway from side to side and say with conviction, “I don’t want to be cut down. I want to stay right where I am and grow into the tallest tree the world has ever seen. My branches will reach so high up to the sky that people will stare at me with envy, wishing they could reach as close to God as my branches do”.
Eventually, the woodcutter came upon the three trees. The first one was cut down, but instead of the wood being handed to a master artist for the creation of a beautiful treasure chest, it was given to the local carpenter, who – hastily and craftlessly – turned it into a wooden trough for feeding animals.
The second tree was also cut down, but to its disappointment, it was not used to make the grand galleon the tree had fantasied about. Rather, the timber was sold to a local fisherman, who used it to build himself a simple, cheap fishing boat.
The third tree didn’t get its wish either. Rather than being left to grow heavenward, the woodsman cuts it down, and split the trunk down the middle to create two half-logs, which he left in his yard, hoping he would one day come up with a good use for them.
An innkeeper bought the feeding trough and placed it in his stable to feed his guests’ horses and donkeys.
There was a census that year, and business was booming – so much so, that one night, when all his rooms were full, the innkeeper could offer nothing better to the young, tired, filthy, scared-looking and heavily pregnant couple that turned up at his door, than a warm spot in the hay amongst the animals in the stable. Later that night, the woman delivered her baby and placed it in the feeding trough.
Three decades later, that fisherman took a group of friends in his boat for a nighttime fishing trip. A massive storm overtook the little boat, throwing it here and there, threatening to capsize it.
The friends in the boat were terrified. They had no idea what to do, so they woke up their leader who was soundly sleeping, in spite of the raging storm. He woke up, walked out unto the deck, stretched his hands out to the sea and said in a quiet voice: “ peace, be still”.
Not too long after that, the woodcutter was standing in his yard, staring at the two half-logs, as he often did, trying to come up with something useful to do with them. Suddenly, he heard a loud noise in the distance – the sound of an angry mob, inching closer and closer to his yard. Before long, the crowd was right outside his gate, causing quite a racket.
A few of them burst into his yard, and, after frantically looking around, one of them pointed at the two half-logs and shouted, “ these two will do”.
They grabbed one half-log, placed it across the other, and nailed them together. Then, amidst loud roars, they carried the crossed beams out through the yard gates, to rejoin the teaming mob out on the streets.
Just before the gate slammed shut, the woodcutter saw them place the cross they had made from his wood onto the shoulders of a skinny man wearing nothing but a loincloth.
His torso, arms and legs were covered in whip marks, and there were chunks of flesh evidently missing from his back. For just a moment, the tortured man turned, and looked directly at the woodcutter with his one eye that wasn’t yet swollen shut.
The woodman felt as if this man as looking straight into his soul. Then the gate slammed shut and the woodsman never saw his two half-logs never again.
Of course, you must have figured out by now that the baby born into the feeding trough, the man who calmed the sea, and the tortured man who carried the cross are all the same person – Jesus.
Those three trees dreamed of a grand life – the first to carry a great treasure, the second to be a grand vessel, and the third to touch God. All three thought their dreams had been shattered, but they each ended up fulfilling their destinies – just not quite in the way they had imagined.
My dear friend, life truly is full of surprises. You may look at your life today and despair at how far you have strayed from your dreams, but the singular truth I have come to learn in my relatively short life is that your own plans for yourself can never be bigger than God’s plans for you. As long as you don’t stop believing in yourself, you WILL get there – no matter how winding your path may be. But you must be prepared to sacrifice your expectations in order to fulfill your potential.
I believe that is really what Good Friday is about: sacrificing our mortal plans to achieve a divine destiny. And that message couldn’t have come at a better time.
Last night, the President asked us all to sacrifice one more week of restricted movement. He asked us to stay apart from our families this Easter and to stay distant from each other during this Coronavirus crisis. This was not what we had planned for ourselves.
It’s a deviation off course – a confounded inconvenience, preventing us all from doing what we want. But just like those three trees, let us not despair. Let us embrace this diversion of our lives. It is just God’s way of leading us to a destiny greater than we could ever imagine for ourselves.
If a feeding trough can carry a great treasure, if a fishing boat can ferry a great miracle, if a tree can become the final resting place of a king, and a symbol of hope for the whole world, then trust me: you too, can emerge from this crisis greater than you ever would have been without it. Just trust, and obey.
My name is Kojo Yankson; may God reward your sacrifice.