Weathered lines on the outer corners of her eyes were sunken into her tan skin indicating a lifetime of smiling. Her eyes twinkled, and she was so warmly kind. When I think of my second grade teacher from when I lived in Arkansas many years ago, I don’t remember many details, but I remember these particular ones. In fact, when I first learned of the expression, crow’s feet, I knew exactly who’s eyes I first noticed that particular detail of branching wrinkles. I’m grateful and exceedingly glad that my example of crow’s feet were from someone who smiled often.
I remember at several points in my life experiencing jaded adults with weary spirits who said something like “enjoy your youth,” “youth is wasted on the young,” “you don’t know what you have.” I remember taking that almost-warning to heart. I didn’t want to grow up. I didn’t want to grow into a weary spirited adult. I clung to optimism and any positive silver lining I could. I latched on to stories of fairies and flying and magic. I also remember experiencing adults’ jealousy while looking at me. It was a strange sensation to be joyful to share something, if even that something being me, to then be around people who cannot experience that joy with you.
On the other hand, there were people like my second grade teacher who taught me that being old doesn’t have to be joyless. Life felt like a challenge. I would do everything in my power to not be jaded, I decided.
Little did I know that this idea of “doing” was exactly what brought people to this place of weariness. Well, essentially, this idea of earning grace. I think there are moments of our expectations being squashed that lead us to a dark place. And then when life hits with pain or grief or any number of sin-stained arrows, it’s easy to give up the fight for joy.
In being serious I cast aside the things I loved like reading for fun, playing, imagining, and searching for the questions that riddle the mystery of life. I cast them aside to pursue more serious, useful things, but they kept creeping into my desires. I’ve spent years trying to unlearn these “doing” tendencies of mine that were my own proud declarations of how to live life. If I followed a plan, surely things will go my way, right? I know, so foolish!
As it turns out, the Lord let me wander off and explore these other ways to live knowing nothing would satisfy. So when I turned to Him exhausted and disconsolate, all the more I would see how He satisfies in depth and width and length and height. Speaking of dimensions, I’m curious if you’ve ever sold your earthly treasure online to strangers? They are always asking for dimensions. We want to know if these objects will fit in our space, don’t we?
That is an aspect of treasure. To talk about its bigness. The hoards of gold in the dragon cave. The huge chest full of buried pirate’s booty. The countless crowned jewels that are this big or that shape.
I used to love when the seven dwarves would go mining for their treasure in the story of Snow White. I remember having a fast food toy of one of the dwarves dragging what looked something like a cart of coal and some jewels peeked out from the rocks. It was made of plastic, but it was my treasure. It awakened something in my imagination. I was fascinated by the shiny potential beneath digging in the ugly. It was just a toy, but I think of it all the time. I would create stories in my head and imagine what it would be like to have a treasure so great! How much more wonderful to have found it amidst a dark cave?
This week I’ve been so enjoying musing on silly things. The very fact that things can be silly is such a grace. And then I started thinking of riddles. The concept of a riddle. It made me think in contrast of my desire to understand, and maybe even control, life. Maybe if I could figure out the riddle of life, I could be satisfied? And then it hit me afresh again. There are riddles all around. There are dark things everywhere waiting for some digging to find the bright shiny jewels. Jesus made sure that the ending to all our stories, yours and mine, is very good.
Why do we try to figure everything out to control it? Maybe we could approach the world like a kid approaching a riddle to figure it out to enjoy it. To share it with others. To laugh. To smile with branching wrinkles stretched out on our radiant faces so that one day years later, a little girl all grown up will be like a child again looking for her shiny treasure.
Last year, I mused at the idea of this square of land in my neighborhood. I thought it would be a perfect place for a community garden. There was a small patch of garden there, but it was pretty pathetic. I remember thinking maybe I could do something about it. Well, I talked to God about it, but I just had too much on my plate. He reminded me that I don’t have to fix or change the world. He’s our salvation. Not me. Praise the Lord! Anyways, I surrendered and committed to praying for our neighborhood. I prayed for our neighbors to know each other better. I prayed for different people to come together like never before. I asked God for big things.
This morning I laughed as I drove by that property, completely covered by a community garden that my neighbors have had time to cultivate in this strange season. In this strange season where I’ve met neighbors I’ve never met before. Where I have neighbor fence parties and porch time and socially distant walks and talks. My neighbor invited me to watch a movie outside on a projector just yesterday.
Maybe he’s not looking for us to work so hard to control how we want the story to go. Maybe he’s trying to engage us in the mining of true treasure, of enjoying each other, growing together, and trusting Him more. Maybe just maybe, God loves the happy harvester not because of the quantity but because of the quality.
Do you know when someone says a word and the word comes alive because there is so much love behind the communication? It’s happened to me a myriad of times. All of a sudden, the word is packed full of significance where before it was just being used for lip service.
Once a woman asked me, “What do you desire?” the most simple of questions, but there was so much love behind that question that I broke into tears at the depth of the care she had for me.
I want to be more of a person who when people think of me they think of warm kindness, smiling crow’s feet, and twinkling eyes, because I suspect then, I will look more like the love of Jesus.
“The kingdom of heaven is like treasure hidden in a field, which a man found and covered up. Then in his joy he goes and sells all that he has and buys that field.
“Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a merchant in search of fine pearls, who, on finding one pearl of great value, went and sold all that he had and bought it.
PS Listen to this podcast episode here.