I was reflecting on the man who found a treasure and immediately bought the field where it lay. His friends and neighbors probably warned him about all the disasters that could happen, about the risks he had foolishly taken—anything but simply celebrating with him and sharing his good fortune. Or else they didn’t even notice. He went to his neighbor and said, “I just bought a field . . .” and immediately his neighbor was droning on about all his problems with the crops and the insects and the family and the Romans. Finding a friend later he says I’ve found an unbelievable treasure in my field.” But instead of congratulating him, the friend says, “That’s nice but what if it belongs to someone else? What if someone comes to claim it? You better not let yourself enjoy it. You better think about these questions. I don’t want you to get hurt.”
And then there’s the man with his pearl. He sells all he has and the pearl is his. He gazes in sheer delight at its purity and lustrous beauty, its warmth and precious value. He’s searched for this all his life. He’s seen other people with fine pearls but one of his own had eluded him. But now friends invite him over and they’re obsessed with string after string of gaudy fake pearls and he wonders if he’s overvalued his own? And if not, could they ever comprehend anything so precious? They seem content and yet he suspects they’re unhappy, insecure, defensive, immature. He knows because he was like them once, weary of the search and settling for imitation. What help is his pearl in a situation like this? He finds himself withdrawing, staying away from them, unable to take part in their cheap entertainment, but not comfortable shutting himself away from others. The treasure is not without its price! He shows his family and they pretend to be interested, pleased, impressed, but all the time are they thinking, “Why couldn’t it be me? I’d like a pearl like that too.” It’s not that he doesn’t want to share, but a pearl can’t be split.
But perhaps one day a man is walking by the seashore, content with his life, secure in his treasure, and he meets another. They talk of the beauty of the sea, the sunset, of evening star and velvet sky. They talk of sadness and joy, of pain and of healing, of anger and ecstasy. One finally takes a deep breath and says, “I, uh, one day, I mean, I just sort of found this treasure . . .” and the other says, “Then maybe you would know what it is to have a wondrous pearl.” The first one breathes, “Yes!” And a bond deeper than anything either of them has known is formed. For the first time someone understands not only the treasure but the aloneness. And in that understanding, there’s no more alone. And if they meet a woman with a dusty coin, a shepherd with a lost lamb, a farmer with a handful of mustard seeds, a farmer’s wife with a batch of bread raising, a woman with an alabaster jar of perfume, a young man weary of feeding pigs but confused by the lights and music of a dinner of fatted calf, a fisherman on the seashore with a catch of fish beyond imagining, they will join with all of them in celebrating the search, the discovery, the joy in the treasure.
The images in the scriptures are rich and multidimensional, because they tell the story of our relationship with a God who is always leading us in new directions and challenging us to grow. We need to cherish the gift of our faith and find like-minded souls who understand and can rejoice with us. This can sometimes be difficult. But the gifts we have are meant to be shared. Sometimes it means taking a chance, risking embarrassment, risking that someone won’t understand or will be offended. We need to be rooted first in our own appreciation of how much the gift means in our own lives. And we need to be sensitive to times when we really do need to protect the treasure we’ve discovered. Never let anyone devalue the gift in your own eyes. One of the blessings of the Internet is that we have a much wider pool in which to find people who share our our dreams, our vision, our faith. And we have new ways of sharing that faith and those dreams with others.