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TITLE: Phoebe the Fig Tree
By Tracey Brown

This story is loosely based on the parable of the Fig Tree in Luke Chapter 13.I believe this story would be a good lesson for children on the spiritual process of being pruned, that things may happen to us that are beyond our control but require a special touch from the Master's hand. It may also be good for children with parents suffering from cancer or other chronic illnesses.
Phoebe the fig tree was sad. The other fig trees in the garden proudly showed their strong branches, full of healthy, green leaves and loaded with sweet juicy figs. Birds would occasionally steal the fruit, which looked and smelled delicious.

Phoebe’s branches were weak and spindly. There were only a couple of drooping leaves on her branches, barely clinging to life. Her ugly branches refused to make any figs. Even the birds refused to sit in her branches or build a nest.

Phoebe could not understand why her branches were bare with no figs or leaves. She tried and tried, but day after day, month after month, everything stayed the same. No figs. No leaves. Nothing.

She wondered what she did wrong. Why was she so ugly and weak? Other trees had no problems being healthy and pretty. It was easy for them. What was wrong with her? Phoebe thought and thought but could not come up with an answer. She sighed. The sadness would not go away.

Every day other fig trees would make fun of her.

“Phoebe, look at you, just pitiful.”

“Phoebe, you’ll never be as pretty as me. You’re so ugly. Nobody wants you here.”

Their meanness made her droop even more.

One day, the master took a stroll in his garden. He smiled as he walked past other trees and even ate a few figs. When he reached Phoebe, he suddenly stopped. His eyes squinted as he closely looked at the frail branches, frowning.

He yelled, “Gardener, come here quickly!”

The gardener came running.

“Yes master?”

“Look at this tree. Every year I come to these fig trees expecting fruit. This tree has not made any figs in the last three years. Cut it down! Why should it take up space in the garden?”

The gardener looked at Phoebe. He felt sorry for her. She had suffered a long time. Still, he did not want to cut her down.

“If it pleases you, sir, let me dig around it, dung it and prune it. If it still won’t produce any fruit, then I will cut it down as you ask. But please let me try to save it.”

“Very well. You may do as you wish, but if that doesn’t work, it must be cut down. See to it.”

The master and gardener left.

Later the gardener returned with a pair of giant scissors. Before Phoebe could stop him, he began chopping away at Phoebe’s branches.

“Wait! Stop! Ouch! That hurts! What are you doing? I need my branches! Stop! I said STOP!"

The gardener didn’t hear any of her protests. He went right on cutting. When he was finished, Phoebe was left with a mass of short stubbly nubs where her branches used to be.

“This is horrible! My branches! Look what you did! Now I’m really ugly!”

Phoebe started crying, but it was no use. The gardener returned again with a wheelbarrow and a shovel. The wheelbarrow was full of some dark smelly stuff. It smelled so terrible, it attracted flies.

The gardener dug a trench around Phoebe’s trunk. When he was finished, he filled the trench with the smelly stuff out of the wheelbarrow. Phoebe couldn’t stand it.

“Oh no! What are you crazy?! That stinks! Eww, it has worms in it too! That’s disgusting! I can’t breathe!”

Phoebe gagged at the smell. The other trees didn’t like it either. The whole row of fig trees smelled awful. Flies swarmed around Phoebe.

The gardener left and Phoebe was alone again, ashamed and embarrassed. Everyone must hate her for this to happen. She was now the ugliest and smelliest tree in the garden, if not the whole world. She wanted to hide under a rock and never come out again. She cried until she could cry no more, helpless and hopeless.

Time passed. Slowly something wonderful happened. Out of the nubs wiry stems formed. Tiny buds appeared on each stem, growing into thick, strong branches with bushy leaves. Underneath each leaf was a tiny baby fig. Phoebe’s branches were no longer ugly and bare. Instead there were long, graceful limbs loaded with figs. The other trees were shocked. She became the most beautiful, graceful tree in the whole fig row.

The master returned to the garden. He strolled down the fig tree row, but this time was confused. He walked up and down the row a few times, stopping and staring at each tree.

“Gardener! Come here!”

The gardener ran to his master.

“That ugly fig tree that was here last year. Did you cut it down and replace it?”

“No sir. It’s still here. That’s it over there.”

He pointed at Phoebe.

“But that’s impossible! You must have replaced it.”

“No sir, I didn’t. That’s the same tree.”

“Why it has much more figs than the others. What did you do?”

The gardener calmly replied, “It just needed a special touch.”

Phoebe stayed loaded with more figs than any other tree year after year. She remained the strongest, loveliest and happiest tree in the entire garden.
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