Early one morning recently while I was walking on the beach I stood to watch a guy using a metal detector. He swept back and forth over some slimy unattractive stones which were uncovered once the tide had gone out. As I watched it was evident he was picking up some signal that there was buried treasure near where he was standing. Several shovel loads of sand later saw him bend down to pick up an item which he then placed in a bag he had tied around his waist. Catching my eye, and seeing me standing watching him he kindly came over to chat with me.
“What on earth would you find buried along here,” I asked?
“Oh there are always treasures in the sand along here once you take the time to look for them” he replied. And with that, he placed a handful of coins in my hand as a gift.
“Thank you very much,” I said to him as I began to walk on…
“No, wait!” he said, “look at them: look at the beautiful artwork on each of the coins.”
So I did and I saw he was right, the artwork was beautiful. Agreeing with him, I smiled as he then added, “Sure there is art everywhere once you take time to look for it!”
Which got me thinking! What buried treasure is hidden in others which I don’t always see and which if I’m honest I don’t always want to take the time to dig deep for. Do I always see beauty in others? Do I really believe that we are all equal?
The rapist and the child molester: The protestor and the one being protested against: The beggar on the street who intimidates me with their forceful “in your face” begging: The guy who is getting unemployment benefits, whom I am certain could get a job if only he looked hard enough: The person whose sexual orientation doesn’t fit in with my perceived values of what is “normal.” The person who goes to the church down the road where they kneel on mats which are facing Mecca to pray: The parent who allows their own child to be used on a suicide bomb mission: And so many more…
Oh I like to think that I think everyone is equal. And I certainly want others to think I think all are equal but hand on my heart I’m not sure I always do! I want to, and I know I should do, but if I peep out from behind my safe mask I’m not sure that when push comes to shove I always think and act as I ought. (I suspect, if we’re honest, we all have our own “not-equal” criteria hidden within us?)
Today in church we heard the story of the Good Samaritan as told in John’s gospel chapter 10. Normally when I hear this story I identify quite easily with the Samaritan. I am a nurse after all, and nurses love to fix but today, honestly? Honestly today I thought, Lord I’m weary of the “fixing “and the “doing,” and the “seeing,” and I just want to keep my head down, to not see, so I don’t see the need which means I have to cross to the other side.
Oh, I’m willing to pray for others to cross to the other side of the road. I’ll even give financial support for others to do the helping, but just not me, please Lord. And I know, without anyone pointing it out, that’s not a right attitude.
So where does that leave me?
Well. Our son recently gifted me a book called “The Brierpatch gospel,” which is written by Shane Wheeler. Besides its excellent worth reading content, it’s the title itself which has caused me to stop and consider how in reality we all at different times find ourselves caught in thickets. The thicket of “expectations” both those of ourselves and our perceived expectations that we think others have of us. The thicket we all too often get stuck in of “doing” in order to gain approval. We can if we are honest, even find ourselves wrestling in thickets of doubts with regards to our faith.
And so as I so often do. when I find myself caught in the thickets, when I feel like I just want to not see, I am beyond grateful that God, just as Jesus did when he joined the two men walking along the Emmaus road, meets me where I am at and not where I, or indeed others, think I ought to be. Maybe that’s where you need to allow Him to meet you too?
And so I pray.
“Lord, Thank you that you pursue me and you come to find me just where I am, including when I get caught up in the thickets. I want to see a beauty within each person I meet. I want to be able to meet their gaze and to listen well to their stories, especially when those stories might be upsetting, perhaps even distasteful to me. I want to cross the road to meet with the silent ones, and to then share their struggles, and to walk the road home with them, but of my own self, I know I just can’t do it. Will you come then with your enabling please Lord? Come and show me any hidden pharisaical pride within me that stops me from loving each one I meet and which stops me from seeing a beauty buried within, beneath some slimy exteriors.
I am willing to change Lord, and where I’m not willing I am willing for you to change to become willing!”
Yours in Him,