She sat upon her pile of toys, like a dragon upon its throne. Dressed in the tattered rags of the daily-worn Rapunzel dress, she looked down with haughty eyes upon the eager, empty, energetic hands of her one-year-old sister; hands held out in the hope of participating in the joys of her sister’s carefully guarded wealth. But dragons are not in the business of sharing their treasure. And what looked like a comical, passing phase of a three-year-old, became a constant reality that changed the vision of what I always thought family life should look like. Our dragon-child existed to protect her precious pile, eventually hoarding all things in her room, which became a stockpile of treasure, a place where toys never played with, but rather, patrolled.
Things worsened when, one fateful day, her little sister braved the entry of the treasure room, and before she was violently escorted out, managed to leave a small token, a small remembrance, of her adventure. And as one leaves a flag upon the moon, she left a bugger on the wall. The bugger act was never forgotten. And I, overcome with frustration and anger, found myself reaching a new low in parenting, as I begged my eldest child with tears, shouting “Please forgive your sister! I promise she will never wipe a bugger on your wall again!”. As ridiculous as this sounds, my eyes sting at this remembrance. I existed in constant grief. Grieving over how I imagined my own sin had made my daughter this way, grieving over my preconceived notions of what I thought family life should look like, grieving over the struggles of my dragon-child. But in the eleventh year of her life, something changed.
From upstairs a megaphone blasts out, “The library is OPEEEEEEEEEN!” Slight panic follows as the three younger kiddos hastily trample upstairs, and, rather than settling down in a chair somewhere, savoring five minutes of peace, I find myself rushing to my daughter’s small room, just as eager to enter as the others.
Her stuffed animals greet us, having been meticulously arranged on her wooden chest, holding books whose titles display the carefully selected theme of the week. A single bookcase holding all her own books await pursuing, and once a book is selected, look forward to a stamped library card and sleeve, laid out on her desk. An array of quiet games (all belonging to herself) are laid out in her game corner. The boys are currently enjoying chess. As for me, I typically settle down in her bean bag chair and read a book (highly recommended by the librarian) while waiting to be the guest reader at storytime. But the more interesting elements of the library are as follows: A Veggie Tale CD of Silly Songs With Larry is on constant replay. She makes frequent and startling announcements via her megaphone, which might include how much longer the theme of the week will be up, the event of the week (last week was game night), and when the library will be closing. She also gives butt massages. For this experience, you simply lay stomach-down on her floor, next to her bed, and you receive a percussion on your glutes, complimentary of her feet, for exactly one “Silly Songs With Larry”.
But by far, the most beautiful thing in the library is the delight and joy of the librarian. Something changed and she is no longer the dragon-child guarding her treasure. Or, to put it more accurately, she is treasuring something else that has caused her to share all that was once untouchable, all that was once patrolled. God has used this transformation in my daughter’s life to show me myself, the parts of myself I have not wanted to see or deal with, the dragon-child parts. For I, like my daughter, have been quite content to sit upon my pile of treasure. It might not look like hers, but it is just the same. My “alone time”, my energy, my Netflix, my schedule, my to-do list, etc. Most days you will find me, perched on my pile of all the things I will so desperately guard, in order to ensure my dragon-child happiness.
So how do we go from protecting our treasure, to joyfully accepting the plundering of it? How do we move from the dragon-child to the librarian?
In Hebrews 10:34 we read, “For you had compassion on those in prison, and you joyfully accepted the plundering of your property, since you knew that you yourselves had a better possession and an abiding one.”
Our problem is not so much our inability to recognize that we are sitting atop a pile of treasure, but rather, our problem is that we are finding our joy in far lesser, fleeting things. Yes, they might bring us joy and happiness…but it cannot compare to the heights and depths of the delights of Christ, nor will these temporary joys even last the night. But Hebrews tells us, with Jesus, we have something better, and something that will last not only beyond the night, but beyond every day of this life, and into all eternity. It is a possession that no discomfort, no pain, no anxiety, no depression, no loss can take away. Not even our own death can touch this possession. Our trouble is believing this, despite what our eyes often see, despite what our deceitful hearts often tell us, and despite what our flesh often feels.
How do we, then, engage in this battle to believe that we have a better possession and an abiding one? One day, in my daughter’s library, as a guest reader, I find myself telling my children this story.
“Once upon a time, there was a little dragon-child who sat upon a pile of her most precious and beloved possessions. She guarded it day and night, finding her joy in protecting it from all who dared to venture near. One day, a man approached her. Sprawling herself out upon her treasure, she readied herself to breathe fire upon the intruder. But seeing he was already bleeding from his hands and feet, and from his head and side, the dragon-child looked questioningly into the stranger’s face and found compassion and kindness. The bleeding man gently reached down to touch her treasure, and the dragon-child, screaming with fury, watched as the man took up her treasure in his hands and proceeded to break it open. The stench that filled her nostrils made her vomit. Shame and guilt flooded her heart, as the man continued to break open every treasure, finding that all of them, like the first, contained the putrid smell of death. The dragon-child, slipping off her throne, found herself weeping at the pierced feet of the man, asking forgiveness for treasuring what she ought not. “My daughter, your sins are forgiven” (Luke 7:48). Reaching down the man lifted her head, and the dragon-child found herself overpowered by a look so loving and so good.
“Now, my child, you will get back on your pile.”
In agony, she cried out, “Do not make me go back there! You have saved me and delivered me from it! You are my treasure now!!!”
The man’s voice broke into joyous laughter, and its delight was as a new father, staring into the face of his child for the first time.
“What could this mean?” thought the daughter as he began gently leading her back to her pile, her hand securely held in his.
It was only then did she realize that the treasure no longer was a pile of sugar-coated lies, but rather, had been transformed into piles upon piles of presents, all wrapped in dazzling-white paper. And she suddenly knew, why he led her back. No longer was her joy in guarding the old treasure. A better and abiding treasure had transformed the purpose of the old pile of treasure, which no longer rotted her soul. For the joy of her new, greater treasure, her Rescuer, she would joyfully accept the plundering of her goods, for her treasure was no longer in them, but in the crucified One who stood before her, who gave himself up for her, who delivered her from the old treasure to be His own. She was now His treasure, and He, hers.
And that is the story, the gospel of Jesus Christ, that transforms us and sets us free from the treasures that keep us in bondage and in their place we find Jesus, a better and abiding treasure, The Treasure that fuels us to joyfully fling open every previously shut and patrolled door shouting, “The library is open!”.