It was so hot and I was trying to convince them. If we just look a little longer, you never know what we”ll find! There may be a big box with a treasure inside and we can give our own treasures if we want to and won”t that be exciting?
They stared at me with wide eyes, their cheeks flushed red.
I”m hot though Mommy….I want to swing and go on the slide and then leave.
But it was driving me crazy, not finding the exact location–the cache–the GPS said we were right on top of it.
It was our first time g and we were learning that people are so into this. On the website we checked from our phones we saw that geocachers had left comments about how this location”s cache was so hard to find, but they found it anyway. We were stumped though, no matter how hard we looked, in the ninety degree humidity.
How did they find it?! They tried harder? They were smarter? They had more experience?
We followed the right path and I”m pretty sure we followed all the rules. But there we were, dripping with sweat and no treasure. The clue was something like Rock Eating Monsters and we were standing in the center of four trees that came together at the ground where their trunks had grown around big rocks.
We learned the hard way that we jumped in and tried a hard one, marked clearly as so on the geocaching app. But still, we thought that if we had crossed all the T”s and dotted all the I”s, standing there with our GPS telling us we were EXACTLY THERE, we should find the cache, get all excited and finally get in the air conditioned minivan and go home.
Instead, we went home treasure-less and sweating, whining and drooping.
I think in analogies a whole lot of the time, so I did it again, this time about faith, religion, finding our way. About all the times we humans try different paths hoping for the same things. Treasures. Victories. Peace.
We go and go like we”re trying to win.
As a child I was on a Baptist path in an Evangelical home and was carried along to church every Sunday and Wednesday night. Hot or tired, it didn”t matter, there we were, faithfully. I felt loved and I loved God and I still felt like I was a foreigner on the journey, not quite getting it right. It seemed like other people really GOT IT. I wondered all the time, Do I need to try harder? Am I not getting something obvious? Are they better than I am?
Yes…they are. The lie was whispered.
In college, I was at a conservative Christian school with lots of rules and a path that meant chapel each day and worship on Sunday nights. The expectation was that if you did All The Things, you would know peace, but I still couldn”t find what I was looking for in all of that trying either. It felt right. I was doing it with people I love. I was dotting all the I”s and crossing most of the T”s, but in the end, I still felt so…lost.
You”re still doing something wrong.
In my twenties I rebelled, or my lifestyle did anyway. I was sure God was there and my roots were buried deep and my trunk had grown around a Rock. But I was drinking and smoking and figuring no other travelers on the path to God wanted to be traveling with the likes of me. The treasure to be found seemed more and more confusing and mysterious, far away. I rode on the back of a pontoon once, drunk and staring. I sat on the edge and my legs were over the side, my feet were being pulled along under water, and I thought about Jesus washing feet. Maybe the treasure is in the water. Maybe He still loves me so….
Maybe, but I”m so bad.
I got married and had kids and cleaned up my act and still felt like I was geocaching on the wrong trail or like I was walking along, the GPS in hand, all the coordinates pointing to YOU ARE HERE, YOU HAVE ARRIVED…just like when we were geocaching another time and we FOUND IT and we opened up this small tube and it was supposed to be everything–the prize, the peace, the treasure, the surprise. But it was a piece of paper and that”s all. In geocaching, you sign a paper when you get there. You write your name, proof that you followed the directions and you made it. And it”s good. It”s satisfying. It”s exciting and then you get back in your minivan and that”s that. Some fleeting moments of satisfaction after finding your way. And maybe you”re just a little disappointed when there isn”t more. Then Life goes back to being Life and sooner or later you want to go back out again, figuring the next hunt, the next goal, is going to be better. Bigger. More.
Maybe a different church. Maybe a revival. Maybe a retreat. Maybe another church.
I wanted the, OH I GET IT! feelings back again, the kind that comes when the clues finally transform into something concrete. Some wisdom settles in or a light bulb moment happens and peace washes over. This is when the GPS says, You have reached your destination and you have and the Spirit of God is so big in the room and the tears come…but then you”re still here and you”re still living all the rules and the finding of your way in the midst of the cyclical daily grind. It begins again, the need, the wanting and that feeling that something just isn”t quite right. Missing. Not quite the X.
The problems with religion seem to come along when people think the cache–the aha moment, the church, the service work, the Pastor, the book… is It. Fixed. Done. Complete. Healed. WIN.
And the problems with religion seem to come along when people think their cache is The Treasure and not just part of it.
So after geocaching I was thinking about how the spiritual “cache” is just a piece to a puzzle we can”t ever complete in this life, and maybe accepting that brings more peace than anything else can. I don”t know. I don”t know a lot. It just seems that sometimes we”re fighting so hard to have The Right Answer and find the X that marks the exact right spot and then sometimes we think we have and it makes us feel Better Than.
It is hard, but I did it and I found The Way and now I know All The Things. Best.
It isn”t that I”m saying there”s no Truth. I believe there is Truth and I believe I”m walking a path toward it and along the way there are treasures hidden and yes, sometimes we have to work for them. But I also think that sometimes we”re scrounging around on the ground in the brown leaves at the foot of some trees and we can”t find the thing we”re so desperate for there. We”re going through the motions and jumping through hoops and our kids are free and they just want to play and laugh over at the park while we try too hard.
They just want us to calm down, slow down. They just want to be together.
I actually tried to climb an unclimbable tree that day when I was trying to find the hidden treasure. It hurt, straining my muscles and scraping my skin. But I had to reach a small hole in the trunk, to see if there was anything in there. There wasn”t. I got down and looked over at the nearby park where our three kids were playing, waiting for us. One lifted up the other so she could reach the monkey bars and then he went to push his brother on the swing. They skip-walked from one thing to the next and giggled like crazy at being silly.
They are living. Taking care of each other. Sometimes screwing up, and always freely moving on.