But we have this treasure in clay vessels, that the exceeding greatness of the power may be of God, and not from ourselves. (2 Corinthians 4:7 WEB)
When I was a young man I enjoyed watching movies about pirates. There was always a buried treasure to be found by the one eyed, swashbuckling, seafarers. I remember reading Treasure Island and the tales of Long John Silver and young Jim Hawkins. I think every young boy dreams of being a pirate or a cowboy. Granted, cowboys might fit better in the Christian perspective than thieving pirates but I liked pirates.
I made pirate swords from anything long and pointy. My brothers were subject to raids when the spirit of the skull and crossed bones took over. I read about pirates and watched movies. Fortunately, for my friends, I mixed pirates with a touch of Robin Hood. My collected goods were distributed to my needy friends. Granted, a button here, an empty writing pen there didn’t make for much booty but to us it was treasure. I was a good pirate. Somewhere along the line I was introduced to Tom Sawyer and Huck Finn. Their American adventures along the Mississippi sparked my interest as well.
During our first furlough from Guam, between 1985 and 1986, we drove to my parent’s home in Quincy, Illinois as often as possible. When my parents moved to Quincy, situated on the mighty Mississippi River, thoughts of pirates and adventure came to mind once more. The tales of Mark Twain, featuring Tom Sawyer and friends, also came to mind. Tom was looking for buried treasure on more than one occasion while getting into the most unusual trouble you could imagine.
Joel was about five years old during one of these visits. My father helped raise three boys and knows boys like adventure and treasure. In preparation for one of our visits he took a small coffee can, filled it with pirate booty, and buried it in the backyard. Using an old paper grocery sack he created a pirate map with directions to the secret stash.
Dad called Joel close and handed him the map. “There’s treasure in the backyard,” he said in a quiet, secretive whisper. Joel’s eyes grew wide and he scanned the room to make sure no one else overheard the exciting news. The two whispered some special words of conspiracy then headed out the back door of the house.
Several years earlier, in 1980, my parents planted a small Cherry Tree in the backyard in honor of Joel, their first grandson. The treasure hunt started from this historic location and ended under a bush. Joel carefully studied the map, measured out each step and ended up at the bush. Dad sat in a lawn chair keeping a protective eye on his conspiracy to find the pirate treasure. A few minutes later Joel stood next to the suspect bush looking at his Grandpa.
“Is it here?” he asked pointing at the ground.
“I’m not sure,” replied Grandpa. “Get the garden shovel from next to the house and start digging!”
Joel ran across the yard and returned with the small hand shovel. With gusto he began digging away at the base of the bush. Dirt was flying everywhere! Dad stepped over to direct his digging to the proper spot and save the bush from destruction by his eager grandson.
Suddenly Joel’s shovel hit something hard. He probed it a couple of times and listened to the dirt muted thump. Dad smiled, shifted the pipe in his mouth, knelt down next to his grandson, and together they extracted the round pirate chest from the loose dirt. Removing the plastic Folgers lid Joel investigated each nut, bolt, piece of candy and all the treasure of the world at his finger tips.
Dad explain each treasure, except the candy which was obvious. The remainder of the afternoon they talked of the treasure, the map, and the fun of exploration. It was good medicine for a curious little boy, a great lesson in following directions. To this day Joel keeps his Treasure Map in a box full of other treasured memories.
Searching God’s Word is sometimes like a treasure hunt. We look for nuggets of gold, to enrich our lives and prepare us to walk with God faithfully. At times we find revelation easy to understand, like a treasure chest full of candy. Other times it requires the seasoned directions of someone who’s been there before us to explain the path. We head out and they patiently watch our progress to provide occasional course corrections. We when reach the end, we’ve discovered the truth God wants to reveal in our life.
I find reading about men and women of faith exciting, instructional and revealing. Missionary biographies are my favorite. OK, go figure, I’m a missionary so that makes sense. Others such as George Müller, R.A. Torrey, A.W. Tozer can be discovered on my bookshelves. Sharing their walk with God helps me interpret the plan God has for my life. They’ve been there before.
I pray my life helps others find God’s truth. It’s not always a straight path. Sometimes it needs a course correction from a watchful Grandpa in the faith. Other times we find ourselves feasting, in abundance, on God’s clear, and free, love and grace.