In the 25th chapter of “The Adventures of Tom Sawyer and Huckleberry Fin” Mark Twain grabs the reader’s attention with this opening line: “There comes a time in every rightly-constructed boy’s life when he has a raging desire to go somewhere and dig for hidden treasure.” Those who remember those days of youthful escapade, agree. And those who remember those days well wish we could live them again.
It’s true isn’t it?—there were times when this world was a real adventure, and the hidden treasure called us, whether real or not, to some remote place, begging for us to discover something far beyond the ordinary?
“Where’ll we dig?” said Huck.
“Oh, most anywhere.” Tom replied.
“Why, is it hid all around?”
“No, indeed it ain’t. It’s hid in mighty particular places, Huck–sometimes on islands, sometimes in rotten chests under the end of a limb of an old dead tree, just where the shadow falls at midnight; but mostly under the floor in ha’nted houses.”
That’s what we love about Tom and Huck. They are what we remember best about the adventure of childhood—things were never ordinary, there was always mystery, always intrigue. The adults we know, and the adults we have become, do not care much for treasure islands, old dead trees, midnight shadows, and haunted houses. The exciting child I used to be has been replaced by a tired gray man who likes to stay home, keep his head down, go to work in the morning, come home in the evening. I’ve settled, tamed the passion for adventure, and done away with the myth of the buried treasure.
In a way then, when Jesus says “the kingdom of heaven is like treasure hidden in a field, which someone found and hid; then in his joy he goes and sells all that he has and buys that field”, I feel a twinge of guilt, and remorse. I stopped looking for treasure a long time ago—and I don’t know if I would know a treasure if I found one anymore.
And what if I found one? Certainly, even upon proper identification, my more sensible self would say it is better to keep all I have then risk a tricky real estate transaction to acquire the unknown. But I shouldn’t be so hard on myself—there are lots of tired gray people. Perhaps you’re no different than me. We all, in one way or another, got a degree, or secured a job, or found a path to trod without deviation—we don’t want treasure maps, and mesmerizing jewels—we want pensions, and health insurance. Finding hidden treasures in strange fields upsets all of that. No news is good news, don’t upset the boat, we like calm waters—days tick by, ruts deepen, our eyes turn down. Will Willimon of Duke University writes that there is a “virtually irresistible tendency in life to transmute from adventure into tame predictability.”
It is the only sensible, grown-up thing to do. God have mercy.