My family used to stop at a little inlet on the 17 Mile Drive in the Monterey Bay. From the viewpoint, one can see a beautiful expanse of ocean and the Californian coast stretch for miles. An outcrop of sea rock overlooks some shallow pools that the waves violently embrace with the tide. Honestly, it looks more scary than pleasant to the easily alarmed eye. But it was here that we’d come back to time and time again.
I can remember one of my first times at this stop. I must have been nine or ten, but I was lithe, agile, athletic, and adventurous. When my family was not looking, I slipped in between the rocks and descended towards the pools. Resting my weight on the sharp rocks, I saw a bright sparkle come from the water below. Though the tide was rising and the waves picking up speed, I followed some voice deep in my body that told me to go. So, carefully, I descended into the ocean’s cool wisps, soaking my pants. Rolling up my sleeves, I reached my hand into the water and fumbled in the sand for the object. At first, I thought it was just some mirage conjured up by the sun’s reflection on the waves, but with more effort my hands grasped something round, a little rough on one side and smooth like glass on the inside. Bringing it out of the water I found myself holding the most precious, pure abalone shell. It glistened so brightly, illuminating my face with wonder. Over the ocean’s roar I heard panicked voices calling for me. But I couldn’t move, the water slowly crept up my pants and I stood in the cove looking out to sea only thinking of how I was a modern explorer. This was my reward for taking the chance and going into the deep. I was filled with adrenaline and I loved it—I couldn’t leave that cove.
Years later I found the cove again. With a weird feeling of confidence, I leapt down the rocks, again reaching that little pools that had been left untouched by curious feet. It was just as difficult to get down there as the first time, but it was there. I squinted at the water to catch any conspicuous glint. It seemed to be ages before a familiar sparkle came from the east. This time, the tide was much higher than I first remembered—but what were wet clothes if treasure was ahead? I jumped in, this time to my chest in water and fumbled around the slipper rocks, sea urchins, snails until I could wedge my foot in a cavity. Balancing on only my left foot and right hand, with a drop to the actual ocean floor just feet in front of me, I reached down and struggled to find the source of light. And just like that, I pulled out another beautiful abalone shell, a perfect twin of the first one. I held it up to the sun, looking through its familiar holes and admiring how it reflected light on everything around it.
I couldn’t believe that years later at the same spot, I would find the same treasure again! It was like some weird accord between me and the sea, a promise that if I searched hard enough I would find what I was looking for. The sea would gift me one of its treasures in return for having the bravery to wander out into the unknown.
God gives us treasure as well. It is found in His son, Jesus Christ, through which love was made manifest on Earth. The point of God’s gift isn’t just eternal life, it’s the intimacy with our Maker here and now. It is the total and complete transformation as living in the image of Christ. It is becoming a gift to others in times of need. It is becoming treasure yourself in the model of our Savior who came to bring hope and truth.
The fact that each time I went back to that cove I found the treasure I was looking for is a testament of God’s covenant with us. He promises us treasures if we take up our crosses and follow Him full heartedly. No matter what happens, He will always be there waiting. It is our decision whether or not we decide to take the challenging course and walk with Him.
I couldn’t have known that the next time I reached the cove there would be another precious shell waiting for me. It was something inside of me prompting me to go out and try again, though it was more challenging than ever. In our relationship with Christ, the Holy Spirit lives inside of us. It guides us in our daily walk and our obedience to it is faith. I couldn’t have known there would be treasure again, but faithfully I entrusted myself and there the treasure was. If we can live our life actively seeking God for any bit of treasure He may give us— community, answers to prayer, the Word, wisdom—then imagine how much richer our lives would be?
words and photo by Anashe Barton