My favorite Biblical parable – and it’s so short it’s really more of a simile than a parable – is in Matthew 13:44. “The kingdom of heaven is like unto treasure hid in a field; the which when a man hath found, he hideth, and for joy thereof goeth and selleth all that he hath, and buyeth that field.” Isn’t it strange, and fitting, that the man didn’t just buy the treasure; he bought the whole field? Fields are weedy. They are full of bugs. Fields require labor. But it was worth the cost, even the value of all this man’s possessions, because the field and the treasure within it were a package deal.
I first fell in love with the parable when I was returning to activity within my church after an absence of a few years – an absence fueled by my frustration with certain social conventions of my religion, not the religion itself. My return, and the subsequent strengthening of my faith, required me to buy the field, or in other words, learn to tolerate the cultural aspects of my church because they did not make the truths and principles within it any less desirable. The priceless treasure of the gospel made it worth traipsing through a bit of thistle to acquire.
The beauty of parables is their capacity to mean many things. Now that I’m a parent, I think of this parable differently. Parenting certainly resembles a field some days. And while I love my children profoundly, I’ve never been one to say I love every minute of being a mom. (And those mothers who say this to me get 4 stars for wishful thinking and 0 stars for credibility – the same score I give old couples who insist they’ve never exchanged a cross word in their 65 years of marriage.)
Sometimes I get a bit mired in the muckier parts of parenthood, but then there are those perfect moments where the value of the treasure is impossible to miss. One such moment was on a camping trip this summer. The older boys were out fishing on the lake with their dad, and Nora was asleep. Gabriel had me all to himself – a rare event lately – and he talked continuously for 2 hours straight.
I took this photo as he was gathering a bunch of wildflowers and giving each one a new botanical name as he picked it. I only wish I had written the names down because I remember laughing at his crazy concoctions the whole time. It was just one of those instants where I felt perfect joy, simple as that.
There’s a line in a Wordsworth poem that says: “here I stand, not only with the sense of present pleasure, but with pleasing thoughts that in this moment there is life and food for future years.” I think back to joyful moments like this one when I need “life and food” to sustain me on the more meager days. I picture Gabriel in the field, and I reach out as he hands me a fistful of newly-christened flowering weeds.
Tags: motherhood, parable, field, treasure.