It was like searching for the pearl of great price.
When each of our two daughters were baptized, we gave them a costly gift to commemorate what we considered their spiritual birthday. For the rest of their lives, we wanted the piece of framed art, each with a spiritual theme, to remind them of their heritage and hope in Jesus Christ. Our older daughter received a picture of a mother praying for her child, a reminder to Katherine that her dad and I pray fervently for her growing relationship with God. Even before Christine accepted Christ, I chose her special picture when I visited the Precious Moments Chapel.
Then an era of transition happened. For the next decade, someone was moving at least every two years. While the girls were at college, their pictures hung in their bedrooms, welcoming them home during vacations and holidays. When my husband was called to a ministry two states away and we found the next parsonage would be half the size of our current one, we helped our girls store belongings that wouldn’t fit in the apartment they shared into a storage unit. After college, Christine spent a year overseas, then moved to Illinois for two years of graduate school, opting to live with thirteen other Christian women in a communal living setting. Once agin, space was tights, so she stored her possessions in the guest apartment attached to our front garage and a local storage unit. Before she went to China she stuffed all of her possessions in yet another storage unit. Katherine vacated her apartment in Columbus to spend nine months in medical rotations and Army officer training.
Finally, within the last year, both daughters started their first full-time jobs and moved all their personal possessions into their first homes. As we pulled out the final boxes from Christine’s second storage unit, I surveyed the sum of her possessions. “Where’s your baptism picture?”
“Don’t you have it?”
“I haven’t seen it.”
“Wasn’t it at your house with my other valuables?”
We checked the attached apartment, the outlying garage used for extra storage, and all the closets in the house. No picture. We checked again. She looked through her belongings. No picture. I think I was more distressed about it than she was. She encouraged me to let it go, dismissing my fears that it had been left in one of the storage units. “If it’s around, it will show up.”
For nine months, I fretted. Every once in a while, I’d poke through closets or the back garage just to make sure. Finally I let it go, quietly mourning the loss. While the picture had disappeared, my daughter’s faith remained strong. Her commitment to Jesus was more valuable than a picture, I told myself, and for that I should be grateful.
After a recent airline trip, I lugged my suitcase to the apartment. I opened the closet door and leaned over to clear a space. I picked up a clear plastic bag with a blanket folded up inside. Through the blanket, I could feel a picture frame. Recognizing the blanket, I groaned. Years ago, my mother had given me a large framed picture of my step-grandfather posing with his work crew in the 1930’s. I thought I had let the picture go many years before. Whatever would I do with such a picture now? Then suddenly, memories of Christine’s picture flashed through my brain. Could it possibly be . . .? I unzipped the bag and unwound the blanket. Yes! It was the missing picture.
In spite of the fact that it was now 10:00 at night, I rushed into the house, clutching the painting and called her. “I have good news,” I told her. “I’m not going to tell you; I’m going to show you. I’m going to take a picture on my IPAD and post it on Facebook Messenger.”
“Oh!” she said hopefully. “Is it what I think it is?” She probably thought my messaged photo would be of a long awaited book contract. “Wait a minute. I can’t talk and check Facebook on my Smartphone at the same time. I’ll have to turn on my computer.”
Moments slipped away as we fiddled with our electronic devices. I waited breathlessly for her reaction and was not disappointed. We both giggled with delight when she saw the picture of her picture.
Jesus once compared the Kingdom of Heaven to a pearl of great price. He told how a man put all his efforts into looking for the pearl, then with great joy, sold all he had so he could attain the pearl. A parallel parable tells of a woman who lost one of her dowry gold coins and would not rest till she found her coin. When she did, she called her neighbors in to celebrate with her.
I can appreciate their emotions. I too wanted to celebrate the retrieval of that picture. It had been out-of-sight for five long years.
But it caused me to wonder about my own faith. How hard do I search for the truths of God? Do I seek diligently for God’s answers to my prayers or for His will for my life? If there’s something I don’t understand in Scripture, am I willing to put aside other things until I discover God’s deeper truths? Am I willing to fervently pray for the salvation of a loved one, not giving up until I hear of their acceptance of the Gospel message?
When I do reach a point of understanding, an answer to prayer, or a breakthrough in reaching someone for Christ, what’s my emotional reaction? People have looked at me like I’m crazy when I clap for joy or shed tears of happiness at a baptism. I’ve been tempted to let their indifference stifle my enthusiasm. I shouldn’t. Someone coming to Jesus or watching God work in a marvelous way are some of the most important moments in our life experience. Like the Psalmist expresses in Psalm 119, I wish I felt a lot more excitement about biblical truths and the joy of walking in His ways. Just like our search for my daughter’s picture, the longer and more difficult the search, the sweeter should be the joy in the discovery. After all, Jesus is the best thing that has ever happened in my life. All else might crumble into dust but God’s words and His love remain forever. Even death can’t ruin my relationship with Him.