Searching for Lost Treasure

Searching for Lost Treasure

I combed through each blade of grass, searching for the small gold ring with a blue sapphire. I was 17 years old and terrified I had lost it forever. My senior class ring was a recent gift from my parents and I hadn’t even graduated yet. Somehow it had slipped off my finger while I was walking in the backyard and I held little hope of ever finding it. I crawled around on my hands and knees with tears dripping down my chin. How could this happen? Why did it fall off my finger? How would my mother react? What would I do if I never found it?

My youngest son recently turned 9 years old. He is a different kind of little boy, not like others his age, and he asked for a metal detector for his birthday. Ever the dutiful mother, I got on Amazon and found the cheapest—but most likely to actually detect metal objects—metal detector on the site and ordered it. When the big day came, he opened it and spent a good many hours scouring the yard with it. He had visions of finding buried treasure. My husband said he’d be lucky to find some bottle caps and old, rusty nails. As it turns out, searching for hidden treasure is a lot harder than one realizes. It takes time and patience and perseverance, virtues many of us do not possess in great abundance.

I have been walking through a terrible grief these past weeks. This grief has caused me to feel in my heart a terrible ache and longing, for what—at first—I wasn’t exactly sure. In the beginning, it was the terrible trauma of watching my good friend slowly die. I thought maybe his was a temporary illness, or at the very least, the simple aging of a tired body. As time passed it became clear that it was not a temporary illness and my friend would most likely not make it. I began to pray that God would let him not suffer any longer and then I waited for Him to respond by letting my friend die.

I sat with him on our last day together and urged him on. “Don’t stay here for me,” I said. “I will be okay without you.” I read to him Psalm 23 and I sang a song about flying to Jesus. I imagined him thus; flying to the One who created us and shedding—once and for all—this ephemeral body. He leaned against me and I felt his weariness. That was the last time I saw him alive.

I would like to say something flowery about him, like he had reached that perfect state of existence that some creatures do and become in the end so utterly beautiful, or that all of those things that used to annoy me or weary me about him fell away like a husk, and all that remained was a glimpse of a perfected soul as it left our broken world. But the truth is, I only felt his absence the way one experiences a black hole. And as the day’s pass, the loss grows only deeper and blacker than I could ever have imagined. And whether I like it or not, the truth is, the loss of my friend has wrecked me.
Suddenly I feel like I did when I was 17 years old and I lost my treasured ring. Here I am on my hands and knees peeling back blades of grass and begging God to help me find it. Instead I have found only black earth and gnats. My back aches and my legs are itchy. There are mosquitoes. And the sun is beating down on my neck. And I am thirsty. If you are reading this and have never experienced the loss of a loved one, maybe you think I am just full of hot air. Just wait. Your time will come.

In the process of trying to run away from this pain I have discovered a deep doubt in my heart that I did not know existed. I have heretofore been unable to verbalize this doubt in so much as heart wounds can ever really be explained or even understood. I think the best way to illuminate my feelings on the subject would be to start with the idea that God is not fair. It is not fair that I have to go on living while my friend is dead because the pain of missing him is so intense. At the very root of that feeling is the idea that God is not present, that He is hands off, or that He is uncaring. And underneath that layer is the idea that God is not good, because if he was good he would not allow me to suffer so. I suppose I am rudimentary, but I feel that if there is not a purpose for the pain, why must I experience it? It would be like beating a horse for no other reason than it was breathing.

I remember the day so many years ago when I gave up on ever finding that ring. I limped into the house sobbing, aware that I would never, ever find it. That is a little how I have felt about God for the past few weeks. Not that He lost me, but that I lost Him. Somewhere on the subconscious level, my pain and this deep doubt caused me to walk away from relationship with him. I have been unable—or maybe the better word is unwilling—to face Him. This pain has been so big and so unbearable that I just couldn’t trust Him anymore. It pains me to write that, but it is true.

I remember at 17 sitting in the house and looking out across the lawn. I knew that ring was out there somewhere. And I knew it wasn’t going to find itself. And I knew my mother would be devastated if I told her I lost it because I had it only a few days. I knew it was impossible to find, but I also knew I would never again be satisfied if I didn’t try. And so I went back out there and tried again. And again. And again.

That is what I did this morning. I tried to find God again. In my feeble, faltering way, I started sobbingly, stumbling toward him. The reason for this is simple, to live without him—having experienced the absolute joy and peace of His presence—is agony. The absence of Him is worse than the absence of my friend. To go on living without the One I love most of all, is an unbearable idea, one I am not willing to face. So even if I have to spend hours and days on my hands and knees peeling back individual blades of grass until I find Him, I will.

And the truth is, I’ll never forget the moment I found that ring. One minute my search was hopeless; the next minute I saw the sun sparkling off the blue gem. It’s the same way with God. He is not really so difficult to find after all.

Maybe you are reading this today and find that you have walked away from relationship with God because of loss or pain. Maybe on the surface you even think you are okay with God, but you silently question His motives or methods. Sometimes hurts expose the deep questions we have, but we are too scared of the possible answers and so we never ask them. We cower and cry, and throw out pleading prayers we know will never be answered because, after all, God isn’t really good because how could someone good allow us to feel so bad?

Today I opened a door I had previously closed and looked at the wound left by the passing of my dear friend. I considered how foul it was becoming, and how toxic it had the ability to become. Instead of closing the door and trying to ignore it again, I decided to invite God to have a look-see. Then I asked him to sit with me and hold me. Then I asked him would he please heal it.

Tonight I have peace because I know that He can, and I know that He will. That is treasure worth searching for, and I didn’t even need a metal detector to find it.

Comments

  1. Thank you so much Margaret. You have given shape, form, and words to the feelings deep in my heart. I just had this conversation with “myself”. The last two years have been excruciatingly difficult financially and emotionally as I care for my disabled spouse and my medically fragile and medically complex daughter. The longer and harder the trials came WITHOUT a reprieve, I felt more abandoned by God even though I know the Bible says He would NEVER leave me. Now that God is beginning to answer some of the 6-year long prayers, I FEEL distance from God and afraid of what’s next. I KNOW what the Bible says, but I DON’T see it or feel it in the midst of my caregiver role right now. THANK YOU for your encouragement and testimony. Hugs and blessings my friend.

  2. Devastating loss leaves it’s mark on us. Though it is many years ago I have never forgotten the year of miscarriage, death of my mother and then my grandmother all within a few short months. It changed me forever. Shedding of tears that seem to come from a bottomless well, heart pain that seems to have no end, and then the daily tasks that no one else is there to do . Keep going, keep on going and going and going. I remember clinging to God as a fact, not a feeling. My feelings were too raw to touch. I remember words coming out of my mouth that didn’t come from me. Telling my doctor after the d and c that God doesn’t make mistakes. Sharing with my neighbor that I knew I would see my mother again. It took years before I could face a Mother’s Day without wanting to stay home and hide. I experienced God during that time in a way that made it impossible for me to ever doubt His existence again. Any time I can’t “feel” His presence I know it isn’t because He moved.
    As always, love and prayers, Mom

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