As the Coronavirus started to close down the country I sent an email to Bishops Andrew and Jo offering my prayers and quoting Isaiah 45 - I will give you the treasures of darkness. In this quote God is speaking through the prophet to a people living in the ‘deep darkness’ and troubled times of the Babylonian Exile. It felt to me in many ways that we were going into exile, and yet God who never leaves us was right there with us, leading us in fact. Leading us into this exile where he would give us the treasures of darkness.
This morning as I sit in the garden I am reading the latest Lent reflection from Brother Ramon’s book, and it is about Mary treasuring these things in her heart (Luke 2:41-51). There is that word again - as a noun ‘treasure’ and as a verb ‘treasuring’, and I wanted to share some reflections I have been having on this word for some time now.
As a little girl growing up in the Bahamas, treasure was a very real thing. The famous pirate Blackbeard had operated in those parts, plundering all sorts of treasure, and the legends came right up to date about the places where his stashed treasure could be found. So there was a realistic chance, bolstered by the exuberant excitement of my fellow Bahamian children that meant we were always searching, wherever we were. Indeed I had a small box of treasure which I had found, usually on a beach, over the years. Sometimes I would sit in the bedroom I shared with my sisters looking at my treasure. When I was 17 I found the most beautiful mother of pearl hair clip buried in the sand at the edge of the sea, and I still wear it to this day - I’m going to try to attach a photo of it to this post.
So then treasure is a very special word for me, and indeed many of us. It is therefore a wonderful word to use for memories, and I’m sure for all of us we spend time ‘treasuring’ memories of our loved ones. This is particularly true when they have died. I know there have been many times when I have taken my memories out of their metaphorical box and treasured them; a smile, a meal, a joke, a journey, even my father’s hands (he had very special hands, possibly because he was an artist they always looked so beautiful to me).
Today in the Brother Ramon Lent book which I am reading for our website we hear about that time when Jesus is 12 and his parents inadvertently leave him in Jerusalem- every parent’s nightmare over the millennia. I was once at a party with 5 year old girls at a wildlife park 3 hours’ drive away from home. When I returned home with my daughter and other charges there was a frantic phone call from the party’s hosts - did we have their 3 year old? We did not, and it transpired that all our nightmares had come true for this family as we had left her at the park, each thinking the other had her. The park had closed, but thankfully she had found her way to the exit and was being cared for by the attendant who had to wait long past her clocking off time until one of them returned. So this is one of those a Bible stories which feels quite real to me! I am then interested that Mary pondered and treasured this in her heart because it must have been connected with such fear and panic.
Yet of course there is a reason for her treasuring it. For the initial terror of losing her pre-pubescent boy was suddenly transformed into witnessing his wisdom amongst such learned people. Only 12 years before she had pondered and treasured the profound message of the shepherds and the wise men at Jesus’ birth, and so she realised this was not just an ordinary (terrifying though it might be) leaving a child in a theme park situation. What was she treasuring? I wonder if it was the wisdom given to her by the Holy Spirit that he was more than simply a boy (but was both human and divine), or I wonder if it was pride in his knowledge amongst these people she would undoubtedly have respected, or maybe it was just another memory of her extraordinary son with the foreshadowed knowledge in her soul that one day she would lose him, and these memories needed to be hoarded, and committed to her memory box.
As the country stays at home in these strange days, the environment takes a much need gasp of fresh air, and seizes the opportunity to rest and heal. People we know and love may be infected or even die of this virus, or we may be lucky and just have a little bit of enforced time to pause. Either way (and I sincerely hope it is the latter) let’s seize this opportunity to take out our treasure boxes of memories and ponder them in our hearts. What are the things that really matter to us in these days when we should be ceasing social contact for a time? What are the treasures which our loving God wants to show us in this darkness, treasures we can have the time to take out and really examine? Whatever your situation as you read this I encourage you to trust that no darkness is too deep for God, no depths too low, no place that you can even flee from him.
Having been led into this wilderness, let’s allow God to show us the treasures which will rebuild our world as a place closer to the Kingdom that Jesus came to bring in.