"Does it matter where you seek the kingdom?"February 10, 2009 ~ by the Generic Christian Mystic
The word speaks of the need for seeking first God’s kingdom and His righteousness. But does it matters where we look? I believe so. The Lord tells us to also seek or lay up treasure in heaven, for the coming, eternal kingdom. That is all clear enough and easy to see. The word is full of treasure, only revealed to us by the indwelling Spirit of Truth. Yet can we find treasure of the kingdom in other places than the word? Yes. Many will think of attending that nice church down the street to find treasure for the hereafter. Perhaps a recommended Christian book or a class will reveal treasure. What about seeking treasure through prayer? How about that private time of worshipping God?
Let me diverge a bit here . . .
Have you ever gone to one of those vacation spots called a Gem or Ruby Mine? For a small fee, you can buy a bucket of dirt, (many times enriched with small gemstones). You then sift the soil and small particles away in water and search for treasure among the sifted stones. Someone else dug the soil, filled the bucket, and sold it to you. You can thus enjoy an easy and cheap thrill of “finding treasure”. Is that the best way to seek treasure? Of course not! It’s actually only entertainment and chances are you will very rarely find any real treasure. (Any parallels you might ascertain between this vacation spot and faithfully sitting in a church pew every Sunday, softly and tenderly seeking the treasure of the kingdom is your own revelation.)
So what about really digging in and seeking the treasure of the kingdom for ourselves? Where and how do we find this everlasting treasure?
Permit me yet another diversionary, treasure-seeking tale . . .
For years, (nearly 24 now), I have driven by a certain spot on the highway and for many years I pondered this spot. It’s only at this juncture in my life that the Lord has let me see a lesson about His kingdom in the following story.
For many months I passed by an outcropping of stone that the highway had cut through. I’d look over and notice what seemed to be fresh cuts or chiseled areas on the cliff face. I was curious but never stopped. Then one day, I finally spied people with hammers and buckets working on the slope of that rock face. Ah ha! Something unique was hidden there in plain view and within easy road access. As the weather warmed, I’d see more people scrambling about, sometimes an entire vanload of children had come to scour the cliffs.
Eventually the day came that I decided to pull over, stop my vehicle, park on the shoulder and climb that hill myself. This “mystery hill” needed to share its secret with me. I picked up stones, kicked at dirt piles but I couldn’t find treasure. Perplexed, I realized I needed someone to guide me and as if on cue, another car pulled off the road.
A man got out and looked up at me and as he ascended the hillside he asked, “Hey what are you looking for up here?”
I laughed and replied, “I was hoping you knew and you could tell me why we are both up on this hillside.”
We both heartily laughed and began in earnest the peer at our feet seeking the not-so-obvious answer. As we shared the common experience of seeing people digging, we agreed that something of value was near, right under our nose. We remained baffled but we kept seeking.
Have we ever felt that with the things of the Lord? We gather into our church organization of choice seeking the treasures of the kingdom. But what are the treasures? Are they even here? We stand among other church-attending seekers and they ask, “What are you looking for here?” If we are honest, we will say we really aren’t totally sure why we are at that particular church in regards to where or what the treasures of the kingdom may be.
Perhaps we witnessed our parents, friends or neighbors attend the church we find ourselves attending. Maybe we saw a vanload, of children unload and go inside -- each excited to be there. They all seemed happy to be at this place. Yet once we look around, honestly asking ourselves hard questions, we must admit we are not sure of many things. So, there we stand or sit as another seeker asks us, “What brings you here today?” How do we reply? Many of us are content to wait for some “authority figure” to tell us, assure us, “Oh, you are looking for ‘X’!” And we say to ourselves, “Oh, ‘X’, yes, that’s it,” and there we remain seeking for “X”. Is that the treasure of seeking the kingdom – this “X”? I don’t really think so. Most of the time that “X” answer we accept is not the treasure at all.
I return now to the “Mystery Hill” . . .
My befuddled, treasure-hunting associate and I stood wondering what the “X” we were seeking really was. A truck pulled off next, emptying itself of one gray-haired, older man, radiating knowledge and authority. He said to us in a raspy hollering, “Finding anything?”
My compatriot and I shrugged and sheepishly answered, “Neither of us know what we are looking for really and haven’t found it yet!”
The old guy seemed to pause, as if chuckling and shouted back, “You’re supposed to be looking for garnets! The place is full of ‘em! That’s what everyone else is after up there! Now this is my property on the top of the hill beyond the right-of-way! Don’t go up there riding 4-wheelers on my land! Those things are a nuisance!” He turned around, got back in his truck and drove off again as quick as he had stopped. Since we weren’t trespassers or 4-wheeler types, he saw us as a non-issue and simply left us to our garnets.
I asked the man next to man, “What’s a garnet – worth anything?”
He had that same-as-me dumb look, “I think it’s a gemstone.”
I thought to myself, “Well . . . duh.”
“I’ll need to do some reading I ‘spose,” I added outloud and began my descent to the road. The other fellow remained.
Again, I was barely any more informed, knowing the “X” was a garnet. But what was a garnet? What did it even look like? Was it valuable, a treasure maybe? I almost decided not to bother with it and then I remembered my youngest daughter. She was at the age when she was big into science -- be it rocks, bones or bugs. Now she is a gifted, dean’s-list-recognized, award-winning art major, (I know, I am bragging on her), so back to the hill she and I came . . .
We arrived at the spot and several other groupings of rock hounds were already there, banging away. It was a nice day and on the weekend. My daughter and I picked our own niche and proceeded to hammer and dig as if we were pros at garnet hunting. It was fun initially but we found few good specimens. Many of the garnets we spied were firmly embedded in the mica-schist matrix and had been fractured by previous attempts at extraction by novices like ourselves. As I was beginning to think this was more of a test of patience than actual fun and frustration for my daughter, I noticed an odd-looking man arriving at the base of the hill. He emerged from his battered off-road contraption looking like some old-time movie villain. He sported a huge handlebar moustache and a clean-shaven head. He wore leather and denim with some serious biker-type boots. He was just watching us work on the hill and then as he caught my eye, he waved for me to come down to him. Hesitantly, I brought my little girl with me off the cliff to speak with this mystery man.
He said, “I have something to show you here.”
Being fellow treasure hunters, he had decided to wow us. He pulled a small plastic medicine bottle from his leather vest and inside was about a half-inch deep of golden flakes.
“Is that really gold?” I asked.
“Of course, it’s some leftover scraps I just panned from a stream near an old abandoned gold mine nearby.”
He showed us his green plastic, gold-panning bowl and even demonstrated how it worked. This was one fascinating guy and really knew his treasure hunting! It seems the appearance of the fellow had kept the other garnet hunters away so we had a private chat with him.
“This garnet-rich, mica-schist vein runs for miles in a North-South direction from here. You can find some nice kyanite crystals up over that hill too,” he added as he put his gold away, “And listen, this is a well-know spot but really beaten and plundered of decent garnets. Matrix is really hard here as well. Over that way, along the lake, about a 15-minute walk or so, you will find a stream that cuts through the vein. Follow it about a half a mile in from its mouth and look for garnets there. They are many huge ones, loosely embedded and easy to retrieve. The spot is secluded, quiet, and really pretty with a nice waterfall upstream from the garnet site.”
Without much more said, he turned to leave as we thanked him. Like that he was gone into history and I quickly put into plan a trip to that place.
Later, I took both my daughters on the journey to the secretive garnet site. My wife and I hiked there too and enjoyed a casual dig. I now have many a fond memory of that spot.
Did we find treasure? Yes and no. Garnets are not that valuable, used on sandpaper as grit as well as for jewelry. If the stone is large enough and defect-free enough, they can be cut and mounted like any other gem. They have a deep, blood-red color. Two fine rings, a pendant and a pair of earrings are graced with garnets we mined from that favorite place. So was the garnet cache a trove of treasure? No, not really but treasure was indeed “layed up” that is timeless valuable. My seeking for that kingdom of treasure hidden from the view of the hustle-bustle highway – well, it changed me, changed my family. The experience itself of seeking, sowed love in my heart between my children and I. It added treasure to my marriage even, somehow. Nothing can match that treasure! It can’t ever be taken away.
Yes, I could have ignored the odd messenger sent to us and never heeded his tale of treasure hidden afar off. We could have stayed with the crowds, by the roadside at the obvious and “easier” treasure. I seriously doubt we would have found such huge quality gemstones nor shared so many dear moments there. It took a certain vision, a faith in that messenger’s gift, for us to leave that outcropping of dynamited, machine-hewn, and hammered stone to wander off in the wilderness to find stones that water and time had exposed. We decided to wander the deer paths, climb steep hills, and scramble down ravines seeking that stream. We followed by faith that stream to an unseen and unproven land. It wasn’t easy. My one older daughter complained that it was too far to walk, (She later earned a degree in Wilderness Leadership and Experiential Education! And now she and her husband are kayaking the Eastern Seaboard of the US, from Maine to Florida!). The experience changed us! It sowed eternal seeds of treasure.
Others I guided there, years later, also thought the hike a difficult one but when we unearthed huge garnets, all complaints were forgotten. Was the treasure in the gems themselves? No, it was in the very act of seeking, that we were each confronted with “pressing on towards the goal” and that lesson changed us.
So now, I ask you . . .
Where are you digging? Where is your treasure today? What is your treasure? Your heart is there also. What does your treasure look like? Do you even know what it really is? Has a certain someone ever been sent your way to help you, to guide your journey? Have you listened and responded in faith? Are you “pressing on” and walking that path now?
Know this, that the real treasure, the prize, is Christ. His kingdom has come and will come in all its full glory. Ask Him for grace to seek Him, Then seek Him. Keep knocking on the door of the kingdom of treasure and it will be opened unto and into you. Be led by the Spirit, by the messenger of Christ in you -- and not by the crowd. Follow Him even into the wilderness, off the easy road, and treasure will be made from Christ in you. Follow the stream to the Rock.
May God bless your journey.
E-mail me if you have comments or questions.