What is the bird in my hand really worth?

When I was a kid, we went through a phase of playing treasure hunts. Depending on our mood, one of us would either make a map, or bury clues along the way with the next set of directions.

They didn't always work out perfectly - our steps were all different sizes. Sometimes we needed more than a little help from the creator. One time my younger brother made me one that had little "treasures" at every stop! Generally the treasure was simply one of our toys, often buried in a small metal box - the 'treasure chest'; but the journey of discovery and the excitement of what might be in store was most of the fun.

Treasures were on my mind recently. It started on the trip to the beach for a weekend away, where I found myself sharing the story above with my husband. When treasure came up again in a totally unrelated discussion, it got me thinking about why treasure might be important at this time.

Walking along the beach, I reflected that each of us treasures different things. Watching surfers, I could imagine the draw of finding the perfect wave, of catching the next ride. And then there were the many rock pools. I have always had an attraction to the treasures I might find in them, whether it be a crab, a fish, sea anemones or simply a pretty garden of seaweed and beautiful shells.

One of our discussions as we walked ventured into wild country. We dreamed a little of what we might do, what changes we might make in our lives - one of those times where we thought about what life might look like if anything goes.

It got me thinking further about what I treasure. What am I prepared to let go of?

Is there a treasure out there that I might miss without letting go of the one in my hand?

Am I holding on too tightly to belief in the old adage that what I have, the proverbial bird, is worth more than what could be? And when is it time to let go so we can possibly get hold of something else?

It reminded me of Jesus' parable (Matt 13:44-6) of the person who found a treasure in a field, and went and sold everything he had to buy the field. And then there is the accompanying story of the pearl of great price - again, the person sold everything to get hold of this pearl.

I have always struggled at a level with both these stories. What if the man got the field only to discover that the previous owner had removed the treasure before he took possession? And isn't buying that pearl a bit like putting all your eggs in one basket? Would you really give up everything for a pearl?

But maybe that is the point. 

Jesus was comparing these situations to the Kingdom of Heaven. There is a risk. When you give up all you have for something, there are rarely guarantees. I like to think that I would follow Jesus' trail wherever it leads, but at the moment I find myself wanting to know more. I have been a little surprised by my reticence toward one option; the sense of loss this idea leaves me with caught me off guard. Am I ready to let go of that much? As I find myself wanting to see a little more of the 'treasure' I might get if I let go of the treasure in my hand, I see that another trust upgrade is required.

And perhaps it also has something to do with challenging that 'good old' belief system of being content and grateful for all you already have, to not to be constantly wanting more. But perhaps what Paul said in his oft-quoted verse about being determined to be content in whatever circumstances is less about staying in one place (physically, emotionally or spiritually) and more about a state of mind in constantly changing scenery. Perhaps it is less about finding my little niche in the world and building a nest to be comfortable in, and more about taking and finding the comfort and peace of the Kingdom wherever I find myself.

In Too Deep?

One of my favourite images is the River of Life flowing from the Temple described in Ezekiel 47.

In a vision, the seer is shown the River getting progressively deeper: from ankle deep, to knee deep, to waist deep, to a River so deep no one could cross it.

There would seem to be a range of ways we can respond when we are offered the River of Life.

For some, we just want to paddle our toes in, get them a little wet, but come and go as we please.

Others might start to go in a little deeper, to explore and experience the River in a way that impacts a little more, but where we can still get out again if and when we want to.

However, there is also a place where we can jump right in, where the water is completely over our heads, where we "sink or swim", and maybe even allow the current to take us where it will.

Ever since I first "saw" it, this place of being in over my head has held a real attraction. The idea of giving myself over to God to the point of allowing Him to direct me and just "go with the flow" carried both excitement and caution in varying quantities. It presented a question:

Do I trust God enough to just jump in, no return?

While we might get used to the idea of being in deep, and even enjoy it, another question arises. It's all very well to enjoy floating down a slow moving, gentle river, but what happens when we hit the rapids, when there are submerged rocks or even looks to be a waterfall up ahead? Are we still happy to be in so deep, or do we start looking for a toe hold, or even try to get out?

Looking back at a period of my life where I felt as though I was in a whirlpool, rapidly being sucked under, I asked God where He was at that time. Although I had felt that I had been holding on to God through it, I had struggled to feel His presence or guidance in that place.

I was given a picture of a parent taking their child swimming. As the child is encouraged to "lie back, relax and float", some children go into panic and clutch their parent as though they are about to be drowned. Parents know they would never let go of their child, or leave them ,but the child doesn't understand this. They allow fear to overwhelm them.

God showed me that I had been like that child. At that time, I was clutching on to my Father, but I didn't really trust Him. I didn't have faith that He would not let me drown, even though I had experienced His goodness many times before. Rather than accepting that I was in the water, (that this was my life), I wanted Him to take me out of the River. I wanted Him to fix the problems and make the pain go away, rather than trusting Him to carry me through.

Although that experience is now far in the past, I have come to realise that at every new set of circumstances the question is asked again at a new and deeper level:

Do you trust Me?

When it seems as though nothing you do (praying, speaking, loving) is bringing about change, can you let go and trust Me, come what may?

I am coming to see that every time I feel as though I am in that deep River, and that it is far from friendly, that it is trying to drown me, my Father says, "Do you trust Me"? 

And I have to answer yes and let go. Again.