Smooth grey stones, oddities of the sea, and bleached bones—things my son and I stepped over and kicked at in curiosity. This morning we took a walk—but it was much more than that. We were on an intrepid expedition, exploring the ruins of an old coastal mill and a sun-drenched cove. Without thinking about it, born of some leagues-deep impulse, I found myself meticulously scouring the shoreline, the tide pools, and the waters of the copper stream that bled slowly into the ocean. I was hoping to find a Spanish doubloon, some shimmering gem from an ancient freight. I was instantly back in a childlike frame of possibility, a boy on an adventure where every coastline is the likely site of a pirate fight and stolen cache, where every forest harbors some mystery waiting to break the spell of an ordinary life.
My son and I threw stones into the ruins of the old mill, chasing monsters away that likely guarded the secrets of the fallen walls and rotted timbers. There was a stirring gleam in my son’s eyes as we explored. Treasure was in his blood. Every corner turned was adventure with glory to be found. I wondered in his wonder. I have to say, I had more than one inclination to pick up dried sea wood and brandish it as a sword. The old crumbling foundations were that of a castle, not a mill—at least for the morning they were.
Children are hardwired to hunt for glory. Little boys with swords of sticks search out lost treasure, stomping in puddles and swiping at invisible villains along the way. Little girls with flowers for crowns await their prince, or rather, like my plucky daughter, rush headlong into their own valiant exploits to secure the kingdom from evil. You don’t have to tell a child that there is a treasure-shaped desire in their chest. They know it. They seek it. They believe they will find it. They are creatures unabashed in their awe.
“When will I find that treasure I once was so sure I would find?” The thought bobbed in my mind like the piece of blanched wood we flung into the stream. We left the bricks and rusted steel of the ruins behind and walked the banks back to the open beach. Then, there on the sand and sea-smoothed grey stones of the cove, I caught a gold glimmer. I was stopped in my tracks by a spike of golden light. “I have found that treasure that I was wired to know.” It was a thought rising with clarity in my mind, not an actual doubloon half-buried in the sand. I have come to know salvation, the joy of a heart finding its true home, a heart locking into place like a bone snapping back into socket. The gospel of Jesus brings a peace that secures, that out-weighs the fears and mutinies of the self that once beat me against the walls of the universe like the bobbing driftwood beaten in rhythm against these rough bluffs. This Jesus, he is the very worth of our souls. Union with Jesus pours gold bullion of hope and precious stones untold into our sin-robbed chests.
And though I have known Jesus as my Lord for many years now, I often forget the riches that have come to be mine by his faithfulness. I suffer from awe amnesia, forgetting what is truly worthy of our deepest affections. How easily I become overwhelmed by the swelling ocean of tasks, the tides of demands that I cannot control. How easily peace slips into the white waters of anxiety. How the undergrowth of expectations covers up once clear paths. We need daily revelations of the gospel, reminders of the precious One that has redeemed us.
Standing over bones on a beach, a grisly discarded pair of seagull wings, and driftwood, I was reminded that the truest treasure came and hunted us. Everything came rushing together with meaning—bones, torn wings, wooden sabers, child’s laughter, and the riot of my own inner demons of insecurity and arrogance. Jesus made these bones live and this stone heart beat. Jesus left behind His heavenly rights to dive into the mess of humanity to save us, the glory thieves who have tried and tried again to lay siege to the walls of paradise. Jesus agonized through disjointed bones while hanging upon cosmic driftwood cast from the wreckage of humanity’s ancient rebellion: a cross that his creatures carved to torture their neighbors and to disavow their King. Yet the Captain of creation willingly took the mutineer’s place, saving us from the wrath we pulled down upon our own heads. The dragon struck and was crushed, the incognito King risen and revealed. This is the glorious gospel through which I was made alive by the Spirit of Jesus Christ. This is the glorious gospel of which I have become a minister. This is the glorious gospel of which I am graced to proclaim from week to week as a pastor, friend, and neighbor. In light of these musings I thought of the apostle Paul’s words:
“Of this gospel I was made a minister according to the gift of God’s grace, which was given me by the working of his power. To me, though I am the very least of all the saints, this grace was given, to preach to the Gentiles the unsearchable riches of Christ, and to bring to light for everyone what is the plan of the mystery hidden for ages in God who created all things, so that through the church the manifold wisdom of God might now be made known to the rulers and authorities in the heavenly places. This was according to the eternal purpose that he has realized in Christ Jesus our Lord, in whom we have boldness and access with confidence through our faith in him.” (Ephesians 3:7-12)
The unsearchable riches of Christ! The great mystery made known! Lord Jesus, thank you for unearthing anew the immeasurable worth of the gospel today. But remind me daily, please, as I forget so easily. My will is terribly weak. My awe becomes obscured, and your beauty gets buried in the fog and thick foliage of life. I am so thankful you sought me out and you redeemed this self-wrecked soul. Yet please, Lord Jesus, continue to hunt out the deepest parts of me, bringing to light the unmapped there-be-dragons-here regions of my being. My imaginations can be so dark, so hollow, yet you love me. I am unworthy of fatherhood, yet you father me through it.
And for my son, who is chasing monsters with his laughter and the splashing of rocks, hunt him out. Seek his heart. Be not far from him. This, in the end, is a prayer for my son. Thank you for him. For his hungry blue-green eyes that show the ocean its finest of hues. For his grit, that has him far too often taking a time out, but when turned to you can bend mountains into the sea. For the trusting way he clings to me when he’s afraid. For his sweet unexpected “love you’s” and blown kisses. May all his adventures and reflexive treasure chasing lead him to revel in the riches of Christ. And as we explore together with the days you have given us, short as they may be, let my son see in me a man in awe of you. Somehow, despite the shadows I know, let him see that you are my great delight and your glory my truest quest.
“One generation shall commend your works to another,
and shall declare your mighty acts.
On the glorious splendor of your majesty,
and on your wondrous works, I will meditate.
They shall speak of the might of your awesome deeds,
and I will declare your greatness.
They shall pour forth the fame of your abundant goodness
and shall sing aloud of your righteousness.” (Psalm 145:3-7)