My Ways Are Higher Than Your Ways

In the woods surrounding the Sea of Galilee on the edge of a hill, three young trees stood together dreaming about what they would become in the future. The first tree said to the others, “One day I wish to be made into the finest treasure box to house the greatest treasures of the earth; gold, diamonds, and precious gemstones of all kinds.”

treesThe second tree said to the others, “One day I wish to be made into the greatest ship that ever sailed the seas. I wish to carry kings and queens. I will be so mighty that I will protect them from the storms of the sea and the might of the waves.”

As for the third tree, it said to the others, “I wish to grow in strength and might, and one day to become the greatest tree that ever was in all the woods and forests of the earth. People will be able to see me from miles around of this hill and gaze up at me from every place. They will admire the breadth of my branches and the might of my wood. They will look up at me and think of the heavens and God.”

The three trees grew over time and the decades went by, yet their dreams never dimed and in time they became three mighty trees in the middle of the wood on the hill by the edge of the Sea of Galilee.

Then one day woodsmen came through the wood seeking good wood to sell in the market place, and they stumbled upon our three now very beautiful and mighty trees.

The first woodsman gazed at the first tree and said, “This is a mighty and fine tree, its wood will no doubt be sought by very gifted craftsmen to make fine furniture and treasure boxes with it” and he started to cut it down. The first tree was very happy as it felt that it was about to fulfill its dreams.

The second woodsman gazed at the second tree and said, “This is a mighty and fine tree, its wood will no doubt be sought by ship builders to make fine ships” and he started to cut it down. The second tree was very happy as it felt that it was about to fulfill its dreams.

The third woodsman gazed at the third tree and said, “This is a mighty and fine tree, I do not know who would want to buy its wood but no doubt it will be useful for something one day. It seems a shame to waste such a good opportunity. It is not always easy to find such good wood” and he started to cut it down. But the third tree was very upset and sad because it wanted to remain in the forest to become a mighty tree admired by all and here it saw its dreams coming to an end at the axe of the woodsman.

Within a short while the wood of the three mighty trees had been cut to size, primed and prepared and sent to the market place for sale. The wood of the first tree was sold to one of the finest craftsmen in all the land. The wood was taken to the workshop and it was very proud to see what wonders the craftsman did with the wood. His workshop was a paradise of the finest furniture, treasure boxes, and ornaments in all the land.

The wood spent many days in the craftsman’s shop, waiting for its turn to be made into something special. It watched with interest as the rich and famous entered his shop asking him to make one thing or another. Each time it prayed that its turn had come up as one customer after another came through the shop. It envied the other pieces of wood as the customers got more famous and the craftsman seemed to excel in what he made from the previous occasion. Sometimes it would wish just to be made into something, anything, no longer wishing to hold the richest treasures of the world. Just an ordinary treasure box would do, or a lavish chair and other times it would comfort itself by saying that it was being kept back for something really special, all it had to do was be patient. One day an old shepherd came in and asked the craftsman to make a sturdy and strong feeding trough for his animals. At first the craftsman laughed, “Do you know who I make my wares for and God knows whether you can afford it?” he said to the shepherd mockingly. The wood could not prevent itself from mocking him also. The shepherd looked down embarrassed and went to leave the craftsman’s shop. Suddenly the craftsman said, “Wait! You are either very brave or very foolish to come in here with that request, but I like a challenge and I have time.”

The craftsman walked around the shop, whilst talking to the shepherd, “We will need a piece of wood that will withstand all the elements of being outdoors and no doubt be banged around by your animals and all that wear. Ah I think I found your wood, shepherd”. To its horror the wood felt the craftsman’s hand fall upon it.

Despite all its protests it was made into an animal’s feeding trough and handed to the shepherd. It was so distressed at what it had become. The shepherd wanted to pay the craftsman, but the craftsman waved him away, “keep your money old man, God has given me much, people come here seeking intricate things, and today you made me make something durable instead, may it serve you many years.” The wood did not see it that way and cursed the craftsman for what he had done. “I was destined to become great, to hold the finest treasure of this world for the rich and famous, instead you have made me into a feeding trough for animals for the poorest of the poor!”

Its distress grew over time into depression, as it became soiled with food and mud and animals kicking against it. The years went by and it had long forgotten its dreams. Over time it resigned itself to its poor and degrading existence in a small cave. Once in a while it served the sheep that the shepherds brought in from the cold nights on the hills of Bethlehem.”

The wood of second tree was sold to a shipyard just as it had dreamed. It watched as in the shipyards the craftsmen turned out great ships, mighty ships of war, merchant ships, and grand ships fit for kings and queens. It too waited its day to be made into something great. Again as with the wood from the first tree, the craftsmen would pass it by with each order they received. It too would convince itself to be patient and that something better would come. One day an order came from the Emperor of Rome for the making of a grand royal ship. Roman officials had been sent to ensure the finest wood is chosen. The wood was so excited, it was confident that it would be picked and sure enough it was selected amongst lots of other wood from the yard. The wood could not sleep all night but dreamt of how it would be part of the new royal ship carrying the Emperor of Rome across the seas.

Its dream soon turned into a nightmare. For unbeknown to the wood an order had also been received that day by a little known fisherman for the making of a fishing boat, and disaster struck when the yard workers got mixed up and sent the wood to make the fishing boat rather than the boat of the emperor. The wood protested, “There has been a terrible mistake, I am a mighty wood, destined for greatness, to carry emperors on the sea, not poor fishermen”. But nobody listened and it watched with sadness as the emperor’s mighty ship was built, whilst it was used to build a simple fishing boat”.

When it was completed, it was launched on the Sea of Galilee. It too forgot its dreams and got use to working the long nights carrying the heavy catches and learning to bear the smell of the fish and fishermen and passing from one generation to the next.

As for the wood from the third tree, it was also sold in the market to a craftsman. But the craftsman did not know what to do with it, every time he came to try something it would not work out and he would cut out the bit that he had damaged and leave what was left to the next time. In the end he was left with two large bits of wood, one slightly longer than the other. “I was so beautiful and big” it cried out, “look at what you have done to me, look at what I have been reduced to!” but again the craftsman did not listen. In the end, not knowing what to do, the craftsman sold the two pieces of wood to some Roman soldiers who were passing by. “At last”, thought the wood, “at least they might put me to some good use.” But the Roman soldiers took the two pieces of wood and put them in a dark store room in Jerusalem and there it remained for a long time almost forgotten.

One winter night the animal feeding trough sat all alone in the dark cold cave in the hills of Bethlehem, and its attention was caught by a young pregnant lady and an elderly man entering the cave. The cave was soon warm. Later that evening the pregnant lady gave birth. The elderly man having no where to put the baby dragged over the animal feeding trough saying, “Mary, I could not find anything except this manager…” He laid fresh straw in it and upon it he laid the newly born baby boy. Soon shepherds came and worshipped before the manager. The manager suddenly came to realize that its dreams had been fulfilled and it was carrying the most valuable treasure in the world.

One day a group of men entered the fishing boat and set sail across the Sea of Galilee. One of the men went to sleep at the back of the boat. A ferocious storm started to blow and despite its best efforts the boat felt that it could no longer hold its self together. It became very afraid and full of doubts. Did it really think that it could become an emperor’s ship on the high seas, when it could not even battle a small storm on a lake? The men onboard were also becoming scared and ran to the back of the boat to wake the sleeping man. The man awoke suddenly and rebuked the waves and said, “Peace, be still” and the winds ceased and there was a sudden calm. The fishing boat suddenly realised that its dreams had been fulfilled and it was carrying the Lord of lords and King of kings.

One day the wood in the store room was woken from a long sleep by the sudden entrance of Roman soldiers. They hurried over to the two bits of wood, laid them on the ground and hammered them together into the shape of a cross. They then carried it out and put it on a man. The man was dripping with blood from beneath his purple rob and his head was crowned with thorns.

The cross was surprised by all the commotion, there was so much people, hurling abuse at the man carrying the cross. They were spitting upon him and shouting at him. He carried the cross all the way to a hill called Golgotha. The cross felt the nails being driven into it and suddenly it was hoisted into the air with the man on it and it could see all of Jerusalem beneath it and everyone could clearly see it.

Everyone gazed up at the cross and the man that was upon it mocking and saying, “He saved many, yet himself he could not save.” It could feel His every breath. It heard Him cry out, “My God, my God why have you forsaken me” and felt His blood soaking into it. He said “I thirst” yet it was surprised when He refused to drink. It heard someone call out from another cross next to it. “Remember me when you come into your kingdom” and He answered, “Today you will be with me in Paradise”. It heard the man’s compassion for a mother in the midst of all His suffering. It could feel His life draining away and it heard the man say, “Father into your hands I place my soul”. It understood when He said, “It is done” and heard Him finally cry with a loud voice. It saw the darkness descend and felt the earth shake beneath it. It heard the testimony of a Roman centurion who said, “Truly this was the Son of God”. It stood firm as the spear was driven into the man’s side and blood and water came streaming out.

So the cross came to realize that its dreams had also finally been fulfilled. It was the greatest tree that there ever was and will be. People saw it from miles around Jerusalem and they gazed up at it from every place. They admired the breadth of its branches for it carried the outstretched hands of the One who loved more than any other and its mighty wood bore the Sacrifice which was offered for the salvation of the whole world. It had come closer to God than it could have ever imagined and all who look up at it could only think of the heavens and God.

For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are My ways higher than your ways,
And My thoughts than your thoughts.
- Isaiah 55:9

St Mark's Coptic Orthodox Church in London is one of the oldest Coptic churches in the lands of the immigration, and one of the first to be supported and cared for by our beloved patriarch, HH the late Pope Shenouda III.

  • St Mark's Coptic Orthodox Church
    Allen Street, Kensington
    London W8 6UX