“The kingdom of heaven is like treasure hidden in a field, which a man found and covered up; then in his joy he goes and sells all that he has and buys that field.”
Matthew 13:44 (RSV)
Yesterday, I heard an expression that I had never heard before: “Where you stumble, dig there for treasure.” This turn of phrase apparently derives from the writing of Joseph Campbell back in the 1980’s. He was discussing mythology and its universal applications. I haven’t read any of his work, but that slightly misquoted phrase provoked a lot of thinking on my part.
I thought of how so many of the weaknesses in my life which have caused me repeatedly to stumble – fears of being forgotten or overlooked; prideful strivings to secure a place for myself with others; cowardice arising out of the fear of humiliation and rejection – all these have actually been gold mines of spiritual growth. There – and precisely there, in the place where I stumbled and fell – is where I have encountered Christ in a deeper way, for He is the treasure hidden in those experiences.
But – and this is crucial – I had to be willing to dig there where I stumbled and fell. My very human (broken and sinful) tendency in reaction to my failures has not been to stay and “dig” to find treasure, but rather to flee away as far and as fast as I can. How? By trying to repair myself or at least the perception of myself by others; some would call it psychological “damage control”, I guess.
What does it look like to do something more Biblical instead, to “sell all that [I] have and buy the field”? It looks like humbling myself before myself, God, and others by telling the truth about my weakness, failure, insecurity, and pride. And that then opens me to experiencing depths of Christ’s mercy: his passionate desire to enfold me (broken, inadequate, weak and fearful as I am) in his infinite love and forgiveness. He longs for me to agree with his evaluation of me: yes, I am deeply wayward and flawed, unable to repair myself. Yet I am his child, his beloved, one for whom Jesus emptied himself; handed himself over to broken, sinful people like me who rejected him; and finally gave his life to redeem me from my lostness. And beyond even that, God the Father, revealed in God the Son, poured out the Holy Spirit, the very life of the Holy Trinity, into “jars of clay” (2 Corinthians 4:7), humble vessels like me, prone to break and chip, yet valued infinitely nonetheless.