I’ve always enjoyed pirate stories, especially the ones that involve a quest to find buried treasure. The search for something magnificent that’s right there, just out of sight. And if you know where to look for it and have the commitment to dig for it, you will find it.
When I was growing up in Cleveland, my friends and I sometimes played “buried treasure” games in our yards. We couldn’t actually dig up the grass to bury something – the parents would be so angry – so we had to hide a little trinket somewhere in the bushes or the garden and then draw a map and let others try to find it. It was great fun.
Don’t you love the romance of buried treasure?
It’s an idea that’s found in cultures throughout history. People fantasize about finding a treasure that will change everything. I wonder if lotteries are appealing because they play off that idea of gaining unexpected riches. The “National Treasure” movies are so much fun with their encrypted maps and hidden secrets.
Even our various religious texts include passages about hidden treasures. There’s one in the gospels where God’s realm is compared to a treasure, and the person who recognizes it sells everything to buy the field where it’s buried in order to claim it as their own.
It’s a powerful image, and so much more. The truth is, each of us does this buried-treasure thing every day. One of our defining challenges is to recognize the treasure that is all around us and inside of us.
It works on different levels.
First, there’s the personal level. We’re challenged to open up and let others look beyond our gritty, messy exterior and see the pretty, shiny stuff inside. And also to invite others to open up for us so we can see the treasure inside of them, too.
And oh, it’s not easy, is it? Sometimes we end up with a big, long “Arrghhhhhh ….” We open up to let someone see inside, and they close us off. Or they get uneasy and backpedal. Others sneak a peek, but only because they feel obligated. And then they change the conversation, ignoring what they just saw.
You’ve probably had that experience. The other person is too afraid to look inside the parts that you have just opened. They’d rather keep them buried.
Thankfully, there are other people who see us as a treasure. You can tell they’re genuine about it. You know it in the way that they look at you, touch you, listen to you, treat you. You know it by the way they smile the moment they see you.
You feel it especially during those times when you get confused and scared and needy and a just a teensy bit crazy. They don’t pull back or run away. They still smile at the thought of you, which makes you comfortable sharing your confusion, fright, neediness and craziness with them.
You may lose sight of your value and worth, but they never do. They’re always there encouraging you to open up and shine.
Thank God for those people.
This whole treasure thing works on a much grander level, too. In fact, that’s where the realm-of-God thing really comes into play. It’s about recognizing every person as a divinely minted treasure and treating them that way.
That’s why we try to help whoever is thirsty or hungry or needy in some way, whether physically or emotionally. And we do it not out of obligation or an effort to earn divine brownie points, but because we recognize everyone’s inherent worth.
We don’t care whether someone is in a tough spot because they’ve made a bad decision or screwed something up. That doesn’t matter; they matter. We respond instinctively out of love.
And we do it immediately, the same way the man who found the buried treasure dropped everything and ran off to buy the field before someone else could claim it. Or the way the good Samaritan responded when he found someone bleeding by the roadside.
That’s what you do when you recognize a treasure – the treasure that’s you and me. Buried and unearthed. Dirt-covered and yet sparkling. Enriching us beyond whatever it costs to acquire.
All we have to do is dig a little bit.