When I was a little girl, my treasures were things. I personified everything, clung to everything, to the point that my mother had to sneak into my room to throw away the gum wrappers I’d saved so I wouldn’t “hurt their feelings.” Long after my play had been replaced by homeschool drama club and dance recitals and then again by college homework and wedding plans, I still kept those treasures, every dusty toy. And when I got married and moved across the country, they all came with me, in box after giant box, my entire childhood, my friends, my memories, my treasures, all neatly packaged for my children someday.
For years they took up space in our basement until it finally dawned on me that I needed the space more than the old toys. And so began my massive purge. It took place in several waves, over several years, but I gradually whittled down to just a very few of my most precious treasures, most importantly my Cabbage Patch dolls, my Cricket doll, some very special stuffed animals, and some lovely toys that had been at my grandmother’s house for us grandchildren when we came to visit. These all I proudly bestowed upon my children as priceless gems, all the more valuable because the dross had been refined away. These were the essence of who I was, the very most treasured of my treasures.
Then, two years ago, in a flurry of conviction over our gluttonous American consumption, my husband and I decided that we must cut back on the sheer volume of toys (among other things) that our family had. I sat the children down at the kitchen table with a big bowl of candy, and gave each child a little bowl. Into three of my children’s bowls, I deposited three pieces of candy. Plunk. Plunk. Plunk. Then I came to the fourth child. I picked up the entire large bowl, and dumped it into her little bowl, candy spilling out everywhere, all over the table. Then I waited to see the children’s reactions. The blessed little girl was giddy, the others indignant. We talked about how we, compared with most people in the world, are so rich. We are like the girl with all the candy. And what did we all think the one with everything ought to do? Share. And that’s what we needed to do with our immense volume of toys. We needed to share.
It was a stirring speech. The kids were thoroughly inspired and ran all around the house collecting toys they wanted to donate to the Salvation Army to bless families that couldn’t afford toys and to help the organization minister to the poor. It was all going great until my daughter picked up one of my Cabbage Patch dolls. “We could give this.” And soon, all my favorite dolls and my grandmother’s little Fischer Price clock radio with “musical movement made in Switzerland” were lying on the donation table and I was choking on tears.
My children didn’t want my treasures.
Well, I reasoned, if they don’t want them, why cart them around until I die and make my poor children sort them out then?
Perhaps my husband might have talked some sense into me, but the exterminator showed up, and I couldn’t get a chance to actually talk to my husband before he took all the donations away on his lunch hour. And then we had an overnight guest arrive that evening, and there just wasn’t time to talk about anything until I was crying myself to sleep over a bunch of stuff I just couldn’t let go of.
My husband went back to the Salvation Army. They let him look through all their sorting bins, but he never found anything. Everyone’s best guess was that my treasures had been sent to the big distribution center in Detroit. My husband called them, and they had a look, but nothing ever turned up.
My treasures were gone.
I prayed and prayed that I could get over it, let go of the stuff, stuff that was just going to burn anyway. I was horrified that I cared so very much, embarrassed actually. What? Was I five years old? I lived in a world where every day mothers watch their real children die, and I was crying over dolls?
And then several months later, during a lesson on telling time, I thought for the umpteenth time about the little clock radio, and I got the idea that I could probably find one online. I figured that, while I may never be able to find dolls like the ones I lost, the clock radio was so much more specific that maybe there was hope. Sure enough, I found enough of them to make my head spin. It was so hard picking out just the right one from the pictures, and I felt so guilty over the price (a little over $25, including shipping). I wondered how much food that would buy for starving people. But I just wanted my treasure back. So I pulled out my credit card and bought the nicest-looking one.
The box arrived. One of my daughters opened it and excitedly brought the little plastic clock radio to me, and I read the words, “musical movement made in Japan.” Japan? It wasn’t the same clock. I had paid over $25, including shipping, money that could have been spent to feed someone, on a forty-year-old clock that wasn’t the same. I cried. Again.
I thought about Matthew 6:19-21,
Lay not up for yourselves treasures upon earth, where moth and rust doth corrupt, and where thieves break through and steal: But lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust doth corrupt, and where thieves do not break through nor steal: For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also.
Clearly, I had laid up treasures on earth. And then I started to wonder if I really had any treasures in heaven. Or was I just a spoiled, overfed American, like the rich people in Luke 6:24 who had already received their consolation? “How do I lay up treasures in heaven?” I wondered.
I was praying about it again later that afternoon when my three-year-old asked for a drink of water. I thought instantly of Matthew 10:42,
And whosoever shall give to drink unto one of these little ones a cup of cold water only in the name of a disciple, verily I say unto you, he shall in no wise lose his reward.
“Here you go,” I said, forcing spunk, “this is from Jesus.”
My daughter looked from me to the cup incredulously, wrinkled up her nose and said, “This is not from Jesus!”
All righty then. Perhaps I need to do something a little more radical.
Or perhaps that’s not quite the point. Maybe it’s not so much that I’m earning “treasures” by what I do or what I suffer, as if the Lord would say to me, “Let’s see, you gave out 457 cups of cold water, turned the other cheek 158 times, and fed 309 hungry people, so that means that you get hardwood floors, French doors, and a sunroom in your mansion…” Maybe Jesus Himself is my treasure. If He is the One that I take with me everywhere I move until I die, if He is the One I want to pass on to my children, if He is the One I search for, spend my money for, find my joy and comfort in, then when I get to heaven and see Him face to face, I will have great treasure indeed. Maybe laying up for myself treasures in heaven just means loving Jesus more and more passionately and letting more and more things fall away that keep me from wanting only Him, making Him all the more valuable because all the dross has been refined away, whether that’s my money, my time, my desires, my fears, my pride, my life itself–or even my dolls or my grandmother’s Fischer Price clock radio with musical movement made in Switzerland.