November 18, 2009
The Misbegotten Search
by Katherine Britton, Crosswalk.com News & Culture editor
This is what the LORD says to the house of Israel: "Seek me and live." - Amos 5:4
It seemed like a good idea at the time.
On a recent trip down memory lane, my sister and I laughed about our short careers as archeologists. We were big on dinosaurs, finding Noah's Ark, learning about the tells being excavated in modern Palestine, the works. I was fascinated by these artifacts, and I dragged my younger sister into my dust-gathering antics.
After I saw the first Indiana Jones film, the hunt for my own artifacts began in earnest. I knew just where to start. Logically speaking (to an eight-year-old), fossils were likely to pop up where you least expected them. After all, how long had King Tut's tomb remained unopened? Or how about those Native American arrowheads my grandfather found on his property? I knew that Native Americans had traveled my area pretty well at some point. And probably dinosaurs too. I firmly believed that "dig and ye shall find."
Being well-versed in archeological techniques and protocol, I knew that all good artifacts were likely to crumble as soon as they breathed the 20th century air. So we didn't actually dig. We brushed.
With thick, kids' craft paintbrushes.
At the dirt.
Under the backyard swingset.
This expedition lasted for at least a summer, and during that time I firmly believed that we were that close to discovering the next species of dinosaur. The packed dirt and rocks under the swingset did take on some curious shapes - just enough to keep me on the verge of discovery - but the great dig amounted to nothing. And eventually, we moved on to other pursuits.
No one can say we weren't earnest. To the contrary, I firmly believed that I was making the best possible use of my summer, and probably my life. But the search for these artifacts in that impossible place was doomed from the beginning. We had no evidence pointing to such a find in such a place. We had no idea what we were really looking for. And yet there we were, day after day, brushing away the dirt while the swings above us hung abandoned.
As children, such a pursuit encouraged our natural curiosity and taught us a few things about tenacity if nothing else. If I took up my paintbrush today, however, I'd be hailed as less of an Indiana Jones figure than a cracked pot. I know better now, and the effort would be completely inappropriate. And yet… I continue in the misbegotten search.
I am like the child that C.S. Lewis described in The Weight of Glory. He wrote,
We are half-hearted creatures, fooling about with drink and sex when infinite joy is offered us, like an ignorant child who want to go on making mud pies in a slum because he cannot imagine what is meant by the offer of a holiday at sea. We are far too easily pleased.
Intersecting Faith & Life: We've glimpsed the sea, and yet we continue making our dreams of earth. Are you more entertained by the mud pies than the promise of eternal treasure? The search is still on, but it's time to put the childish ways behind us (1 Corinthians 13:11) and seek after the genuine. That's the only treasure worth finding.