When I was a nine-year-old kid living on a farm in central PA, my friend and I ran down the long lane past the apple tree and pear tree and cherry tree, across the empty back road, and into the church’s parking lot. Sometimes, we rode our bikes there, and in the late spring days the air was still cool enough to blur our eyes. The trees were a kind of new green, not the shadowy green they would become in the summer heat, but a lime lollipop color that was new and fresh.
We each pulled a penny from one of our pockets, got down on our hands and knees on the macadam, and looked for Fool’s Gold. If Wikipedia can be believed, this is actually something called Pyrite, but that didn’t matter to us back then. We wanted the shiny stuff. We’d look and look and look, and when we finally saw a piece, we’d dig it out of the ground with our penny, pocket the gold, and keep looking.
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I’ve been reading through the Psalms in the Message—I love the creativity and poetic language Eugene Peterson uses. And the other day I read Psalm 106:
They traded the Glory
For a cheap piece of sculpture—a grass-chewing bull!
As the story goes, when the Israelites thought they had been abandoned by God and Moses, they threw their jewelry into the fire, melted it down, and created a calf to worship. They were so desperate to have something tangible to lead them, something they could see and touch and feel, that they were willing to walk away from the God who had miraculously provided for them such a short time before.
They were willing to trade the Glory for a cheap replacement.
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Whether or not you’re a Christian, there’s a clear application here: stop trading in the good stuff for meaningless crap. Keep going for the real, the true, the meaningful.
I know it can be hard to keep believing in the work you’re creating when it feels like there’s nothing on the horizon, no hope for a bigger audience, no real reason to keep going. It’s hard to keep going when it feels like you’re leaving a wake of failure behind you. Or maybe you’re having trouble finding hope when it comes to your spouse, your kid, your church, your business, your dream. Maybe you’re finding it hard to keep hoping in yourself. I understand this. When everything seems to have vanished, when our goals and dreams seem unattainable, we just want something we can touch. And we get to the point where we’re willing to trade in the good stuff we can’t see (even if it’s just around the corner) for just about anything tangible, even if it’s a cheap imitation of that beautiful, wonderful thing we’ve been chasing for such a long time. Even if it means walking away from the Glory.
We give up way too early, way too often.
The key is hope. Trust. Faith.
As Journey would say, Don’t stop beleeeeevin’…
So keep hoping. Keep going. Keep trying. One more day. Find someone who will encourage you to stay focused on the good, the beautiful, the true, the real. And don’t trade the good stuff in for Fool’s Gold. If you do, you might walk away with pockets that feel full, but it’s really just a pocketful of shiny junk. The good stuff is out there, waiting for you.
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What’s the good stuff that feels elusive to you right now? What’s the Fool’s Gold you’re tempted to go after? I’d love to hear about it in the comments.
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