Trading Gold for Stones
Why is it so hard to trust your own gift?
God gives each of us one unique gift. It’s your treasure. The one thing you have to offer the world. But most of us can remember, early on, looking at our gift and feeling like it was nothing compared to what other people had. It wasn’t good enough or cool enough. It wasn’t going to impress anybody, wasn’t going to make near enough money.
So we traded it for something “better.”
There’s a Grimm Brothers fairy tale that comes to mind. Once upon a time a poor widow sends her son Hans into town to fetch a simple meal. But along the way into town he discovers a lump of gold. Hans heads back to show his mother his incredible treasure, but no sooner does he turn around but he meets a knight who convinces him to trade the gold for the knight’s steed. “The better for plowing!” the knight assures the boy.
The boy leads the horse down the road, but then meets a farmer who tells the boy that his mother cannot eat the horse. Why not trade for the farmer’s cow? Sounds reasonable enough. Until he meets a neighbor with a goose under his arm. The poor mother wants a meal today, right? Then better the goose. Done. He’s almost home, when he runs into a boy who tells him that if he trades for this whetstone he can sharpen knives forever and slaughter hundreds of geese in the future. Done again.
When he gets home Hans notices this clumsy stone in his pocket. He pulls it out, puzzled as to how it got there, and throws it away before crossing the threshold.
Trust your gift. Trust that it is pure gold, and do not weigh it or measure it or compare it to anyone else’s gold.
Help the young people in your life to treasure their golden gift. Hold it up. Show it to them. By the time they are eleven or twelve they have already forgotten it or started trading it away. But if one trusted adult holds up that gift and says, “This is yours. It is God’s treasure nestled in your soul,” it can make all the difference.
And if you’re feeling like, somehow, you are Hans and have traded away your treasure, that’s typical. (The Grimm Brothers wouldn’t have written the tale if it weren’t universal.) You may have traded your gold and tossed your stone into the weeds, but God’s gifts are eternal. God knows where that gift is, and if you pray in silence you will find it again. It is always hidden in the lost recesses of your own heart.