Before time began, the Great King beheld a vision of a particular tree – a Chosen Tree.
In the shadows before history, the Great King launched into his song and with every word, great things came forth. Majestic light shown all about. Stars, planets, and moons moved with grace upon the sky as spheres riding on the waves of music. Upon the earth, his song shaped deep oceans, rivers, saintly mountains, valleys, quiet hollows, sweeping plains and magnificent vistas. He formed abundant and manifold flora and fauna. It all was beautiful and good. Then the King brought forth his subjects from the ground . The breath of the King’s song entered man and his first sight was of the Great King and his earthly palace.
One cloudy day, man would choose to break away from the Great King – seeking his own kingship where death would reign. It would be known through the land as ‘The Sunder.’
But, the forest remained – an echo of the Great King’s beautiful song. For generations, ancestors of a Chosen Tree seeded, grew and died in a quiet forrest just beyond the City of the Great King. One morning a breeze blew from the east, loosening a tree fruit that fell to the earth. Many days passed and the fruit died, it’s seeds sank deep under the surface of the soil. In the darkness, one by one the seeds succumbed to thirst in their hardened shells, forgotten.
Then, the King sent rains from above. There lay one Chosen Seed, dead in it’s thirst. A droplet of the King’s rain met with the seed deep beneath the earth. In a moment, the seed burst forth with life.
The little tree struggled and rose from the earth – reaching for the sun far above, embracing the glorious light that shone forth on the tiny patch of ground chosen for this Chosen Tree.
Some days, the Great King sent strong winds and storms that made the tree grow stronger. Other days, gentle rains to quench thirst – in all days the King gave light. This tree was different from all other trees in the forest. He was set apart – Chosen. He grew in stature and strength. Ravens and song birds would nest in his limbs. He grew so tall that he would be the first to see the sunrise over the City of the Great King.
The Chosen Tree heard the quiet voice of the Great King in the gentle wind at night, “You are Chosen to be great among all trees of the forest.” The Chosen Tree dreamed that perhaps he would provide shade for the King in the heat of the day. Or maybe he would be fashioned into the King’s banquet table. “Ahhh!” he thought, the Chosen Tree would make a sturdy throne for the Great King – overlaid with gold, silver and fine jewels. The tree wondered, as he did not know for what royal purpose he was born.
Ages passed as the Chosen Tree remained in the quiet forest. Some days, the Tree would glimpse the Son of the Great King – the Prince walking on the road leading to the Great City.
One day there was trouble in the land. Since The Sunder, men’s hearts turned into dark pits into which they fell – transforming some men into Rogues. They were ruthless creatures bent on poisoning and enslaving everything on earth for their own pleasure. One day a dreadful Rogue came into the forest and stood before the Chosen Tree. His sinister mind slithered like a serpent with venomous thoughts. His eyes were as poison. His axe was ancient and sharp. The Rogue leered at the Chosen Tree for a long time. He murmured wicked poetry as a twisted grin crept across his hideous face. The chill of his dark presence caused the Chosen Tree to quiver.
The Rogue laughed as he leveled the first blow to the tree with his blade. Like a flash of lightening, pain bolted from roots to leaves. With every strike – agony.
“This wasn’t the way it was supposed to be,” the tree thought as he shook under the mighty blows. He was a Chosen Tree – to be employed for noble work. He was destined for the palace – the throne! Remember? “There must be some mistake!” the tree cried in silence.
In the afternoon sun, the tree’s leaves shook and limbs grew colder with every strike. The Rogue’s fiendish laugh echoed and began to fade into silence. The tree of the Great King’s vision from before the beginning of time, swayed as if the world and the King forgot him. At twilight, a gentle breeze blew and the Chosen Tree fell toward the Great King’s City. In the evening shadows, the forest grew quiet – sadness and hopelessness descended like fog – wetting the entire forest like tears.
The Rogue dragged the Tree from the forrest and hewed him into beams. He was left rugged for meager and lowly use – not royal use. The Chosen Tree was left alone for many days. The tree thought, “This is not my purpose. I was to be a great tree – chosen by the Great King! Why did he let this become my fate?”
One morning, there was a great commotion in the King’s City. The dreadful Rogue dragged the Chosen Tree into the City. The gates swung open and the pulsating crowd was pressed back by Rogues. Suddenly a man was cast into the center of the crowd and told to take up the Chosen Tree upon his back. Some mocked him and others spit on him. The Tree thought, “this was the Poorest Man the world ever knew.” He was bloodied, bruised and full of sorrows. “What had he done to deserve such treatment?” he thought. Heaving for breath, back torn by whips – the man looked upon the Chosen Tree as tears streamed down his face. The Chosen Tree suddenly remembered seeing the man before. His memories took him back to the forest and watching this man walk on the road toward the Great City. The Poorest Man was the Great King’s son -the Prince! The Chosen Tree wondered why the Great King would forsake his Chosen Tree and now his only Son. What had he done so terribly wrong? Why such a man be born to a King?
The crowd thundered and cried out as the Poorest Man took the Chosen Tree upon his torn back. “If only I was a lighter burden”, thought the Tree. As the man gasped under the weight, the tree felt his blood soaking into his fibers. With his face pressed against the tree, tears wetted the bark – tears more innocent than the freshest dew or whitest downy flake.
In the midst of the jeering crowd, there was a quiet stillness between the Chosen Tree and the Poorest Man. The man whispered to the tree, “You must help me, please. You must do for me what no other tree can do. Help me finish my quest.” The Tree promised and they went together.
When the sun was at its zenith, the Tree was thrown on the ground and the man was lashed to him. As iron thorns were driven through his hands and feet – his body revolted in pain. His screams shook the earth and split the heavens. The tree’s strong fibers held the iron thorns fast. Then the Chosen Tree was lifted up before the crowds. The Poorest Man said in a rustled breath, “Hold me here. I must take my stand in this horrible place.” And with those words, the Chosen Tree had his strength renewed. He stood tall on that terrible hill outside the Great King’s City. He held up the bloody arms of the Poorest Man in defiance of the Rogues and hate-filled crowds. The Chosen Tree was one with the man.
The tree’s past dreams of greatness and honor faded like stars at dawn – darkness crept upon that cursed hill. With every labored breath, the tree heard the man murmur, “I love you” to the hate filled mob that now stood in darkness. It was quiet. The Poorest Man’s breath became shallow but the tree could feel his heartbeat as if it was thunder.
Finally, the Poorest Man proclaimed to the crowd and to the heavens, “My work is done!” As his last breath left his battered body – in the stillness of that dim moment, the poor man gently sighed, “Thank you, thank you Chosen Tree – you have done well. I will never forget you.” The Poorest Man (the King’s Son – the Prince) died on that day in darkness. The earth shook under the weight of a dead prince’s love. The Chosen Tree had served his purpose – for which he was born. Promised kept, he was cold and saddened that this was his fate. He had been twisted into an instrument of death. The crowd left that horrible place. All but one Rogue. He stood and stared at the dead prince on the tree. In the darkness a tear fell from that dreadful Rogue’s eye.
The Chosen Tree was cast beyond the border of the city in a rubbish heap.
The tree wondered why the Great King’s vision never came to pass. He began to dream of the quiet forest of his youth – the gentle rain and light breezes that rustled his leaves – the magnificent sunlight of dawn and the sight of the King’s City. He faded into deep sleep in that place of refuse. Under the starry hosts, the Chosen Tree died.
“Wake up… wake up” a familiar voice whispered softly in song. The quiet sound of his voice reverberated throughout the forest. A hand gently touched his mighty trunk causing the tree to tremble. Again, the voice said, “wake up my friend.”
As the Chosen Tree stirred under the thundering whisper of the voice, a familiar light and warmth spread from his leaves to limbs, down through his trunk into the roots that lay deep in the earth. A pleasant breeze enveloped him. “What happened?” the tree thought. “What was that horrible nightmare?”
The Chosen Tree slowly recognized the man standing beneath him as rays of sunlight reflected and refracted off the dew all about the forest like tiny prisms. It was the King’s Son!
The Tree cried out, “I had a horrible dream dear Prince!” The Chosen Tree recounted the entire horrible tale. The tree told the Prince about the Great King’s vision. The tree shook with great grief as he told of the death of the Poorest Man.
In a soft voice, the King’s Son began to speak. “My dearest Chosen Tree, it was not a dream. It was all very real.” “I was the Poorest Man who carried you to that horrible hill.” The Tree remembered that dark time when the world sunk beneath the weight of night. The Prince continued, “You then carried me and held me as I needed to complete my Father’s work.” “The song that the Great King sang in the beginning of time planted you for the greatest purpose of all. If you had not been strong, you would not have held me.” With that, the Prince held up his hands. There were the Poorest Man’s scars where the Rogues had driven the iron thorns. “But you died – I was thrown outside the Great City and I died too” said the tree, confused.
The King’s Son began to laugh. “We did die!” he exclaimed. “But that was our purpose.” Just then, a little boy was running past in the forest. The child stopped suddenly and bowed to the Prince. The Tree vaguely recalled the little boy’s face. It was so familiar. The Prince lifted the child in his arms toward the Tree. A light came into the child’s eyes as he looked upon the Tree. “Is this the Chosen Tree you speak of, my Prince?” “Yes, my child” the King’s Son replied. “Do you remember him?” asked the Prince. “Why, yes I do! I do!” the child exclaimed. “I was there when he held you on that horrible hill.”
All of the sudden, the Tree remembered the boy. But, the boy on that horrible hill was a Rogue – a man of evil. A man who took part in the King’s Son’s death. This was the Rogue who threw the Chosen Tree outside the King’s City like rubbish. Now the Rogue was a little boy – full of joy.
The Prince set the child upon the ground beneath the mighty Tree. “Run and play, my child” he said with a grin. The little boy bowed before the Prince and turned to run and play. Then, the boy paused and walked toward the tree. He placed his little hand and head upon his trunk. He whispered, “Thank you, Chosen Tree – you were the throne I saw in the sky on that horrible hill on that dark day. The Prince saw me that day and I was sorry for what I had done.” The little boy quietly said, “I woke up here too.”
The boy bowed to the Prince again and waved at the Chosen Tree before joyfully running toward the King’s City.
The Tree realized that he was back in the forest. A perfect most beautiful forest. He could see the King’s City in the distance. It was bigger and more magnificent than ever. Light shone forth from its center. He could here songs echoing from inside its walls and rising to the heavens like smoke.
The Tree noticed the Prince looking at the City. Then, his gaze fell upon the Chosen Tree again and a cool breeze blew through his leaves.
The Prince smiled and said, “There is only one tree like you. You were planted to hold me in the darkness before evil men in order that they would not perish. You were chosen to carry me to my throne. Now, I have planted you here. I restored you in peace in this beloved forest. This is the home I made for you.”
The Prince departed and walked toward the Great City as the singing grew louder. He turned and whispered in a voice that sounded like an ocean, “Home Forever.”
Moral Imagination Grounded in Revelation 21