By Kim Jones
Experienced treasure hunters know that great treasures may not look like treasures when you first see them. They may be camouflaged, covered up, or in need of cleaning. So serious treasure hunters learn how to spot a treasure in the rough, and that skill is even more important when the treasure they’re seeking is a relationship that can endure through the darkness.
Years ago, as an often obsessed rock hound, I learned some valuable lessons about treasure hunting. Nearly every outing produced one or more rock treasures for my collection, but one of my most prized rocks was discovered by accident – right in my own backyard. At the time, our riverside homesite boasted a well-worn path to a swimming hole. After a severe storm, we spent days clearing the fallen timber and broken branches from the path. That when we found it near the base of the fallen tree – a geode, an ordinary looking rock filled with sparkling quartz crystal.
We had walked the path almost daily but never had noticed the half-buried geode. Even if we had seen it, we probably would have dismissed it because its beauty wasn’t apparent at first glance. Its splendor was covered by dirt and moss, so it had to be unearthed, carried to the river, and washed before we could see its magnificence.
That unexpected discovery taught me some valuable lessons about finding treasure, whether we seek a precious stone or a priceless relationship.
Some treasures lie hidden until a storm changes the landscape. When storm clouds gather, treasures, like my beautiful geode, may rise to the surface. Joanie and Betsy, for example, had been casual friends for nearly a decade. Their friendship changed dramatically when Joanie’s daughter married. Two days before the wedding, Joanie’s mother died. At the same time, Joanie’s cousin was battling cancer. “I needed mercy,” Joanie explains, “and there was no one but Betsy to offer it. She affirmed me in my pain and never tried to diminish it or explain it.”
Treasures can be found in unexpected places that are easily overlooked if you’re in a hurry, not paying attention or not open to new possibilities. Just as I never thought of looking for beautiful rocks half-buried near trees in my backyard, Karie never thought of looking for help and support from her husband’s family. After all, Karie was an energy-filled extrovert. She was everyone’s friend and the life of the party. Her mother-in-law was quiet and cautious, an introvert who preferred to talk to one person at a time – if she knew the person. Yet when a devastating illness robbed Karie of her mobility and independence, her mother-in-law gently and without fanfare stepped in to help. She was a quiet blessing who never meddled or minded doing mundane tasks. In time, and much to Karie’s surprise, her mother-in-law became one of her closest and best friends.
Treasures may not look like treasures at first glance. Just like my dirt and moss-covered geode, some treasures need a little TLC to reveal their true beauty. Often people aren’t sure what to say, how to act or what to do in response to someone who is hurting. That’s when, according to paraplegic Joni Eareckson Tada, you have to look past awkward gestures and fumbling attempts of encouragement and consider the person’s “thoughtful motives and willingness to love and care for a hurting person’s soul.” Once you’ve spotted a right-hearted friend, allow time and grace for your friend to learn how to navigate the rocky terrain that hurting people walk. There is often a learning curve before family and friends “get it”.
Learn all you can about the treasure you’re seeking such as where it’s found and what it looks like “in the rough.” I learned that geodes are often found near water or an old water source, are plain looking and usually spherical. When it comes to relationships, God, who knows our hearts and motives, is by far the best as spotting treasured friends in the rough. If we ask, He will give us the wisdom to spot them, too. So ask, watch and wait. You never know what treasures the storm may bring.
When We Can’t See the Treasure
After years of pain and despair, Joanie sat down with two friends and talked openly about what it had been like to live with a chronic and crippling lung disease. She described the daily battle that often left her physcially, emotionally and spiritually drained. Through tears she talked about the doubts, pain and disappointment.
Wanting to know more about what Joanie had learned through those struggles, one friend asked, “What are some of the greatest treasures you’ve discovered on this journey?”
“I don’t know if I’m far enough to answer that,” Joanie replied. Her answer is not unusual. Sometimes we’re too close to our situation to have perspective. We can’t see the treasures because our eyes are fixed on the path before us.
Althought we may see no treasure in the shattered landscape surrounding us, our family and friends may see it clearly. They can help us see the treasures we’ve amassed, sometimes unknowingly, along the way. Knowing this, Betsy, one of Joanie’s closest friends, spoke up and began describing some of the treasures she saw in Joanie’s life.
Joanie was amazed as Betsy told how Joanie’s suffering had birthed treasure in Betsy’s life, enabling her to be a better friend and a better listener. Betsy went on to describe how the treasures of compassion and mercy, which had become so evident in Joanie’s life, had encouraged others who were hurting. Betsy reminded Joanie of the priceless treasure of her children’s faith that had grown strong as they helped carry the burden of their mother’s suffering through their prayers. Throughout the afternoon, Betsy unearthed and displayed the many treasures she saw revealed in Joanie’s life. Joanie was visibly moved. Perhaps for the first time she saw that her suffering was not in vain, that there were indeed treasures in her darkness.