We gather around the kitchen table’s golden wood, tousled hair not yet brushed for the day. I with my cup of coffee, they with the taste of oatmeal still on their tongues. We pull up wooden chairs and the children fold legs under, adjusting to make themselves fit. We’ve come to the table, to open the day.
Our Bible has seen better days, waterlogged and dogeared and stained on both covers. I pull out the handbook, the memory verse cards, and pass Youngest her tattered Bible coloring book and a rainbow of crayons. For now, listening needs an activity for little hands. We pray, asking for guidance and blessings on our day.
I flip open to Matthew 13:44, read aloud. “The kingdom of heaven is like treasure hidden in a field. When a man found it, he hid it again, and then in his joy went and sold all he had and bought that field. Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a merchant looking for fine pearls. When he found one of great value, he went away and sold everything he had and bought it.”
What did Jesus mean? I ask them. And Middle Child offers: Heaven is more important than anything else, so we should do whatever we can here to build the Kingdom. I shouldn’t be, but I am surprised at how she understands. I think of my own heart: What’s clear right now becomes harder to live as the day continues, slips the mind the farther away we are from morning’s quiet dedication.
Again, I flip through worn pages to find Proverbs, Eldest’s favorite lately. We read of Wisdom, calling in the streets: Wisdom has built her house; she has hewn out its seven pillars. She has prepared her meat and mixed her wine; she has also set her table. She has sent out her maids, and she calls from the highest point of the city. “Let all who are simple come in here!” she says to those who lack judgment. Come, eat my food and drink the wine I have mixed. Leave your simple ways and you will live; walk in the way of understanding. I can almost see it, Wisdom’s little house. The door is open, and from the street I can see Wisdom’s table set with fine china and linen napkins. Ever the gracious host, she lays out good bread made with loving hands, meat and fruit and vegetables and cheese. A centerpiece of blood-red roses spills over her table’s oaken glow.
And the 9th chapter of Proverbs ends with juxtaposition of Wisdom and Folly: The woman Folly is loud; she is undisciplined and without knowledge. She sits at the door of her house, on a seat at the highest point of the city, calling out to those who pass by, who go straight on their way. “Let all who are simple come in here!” she says to those who lack judgment. “Stolen water is sweet; food eaten in secret is delicious!”But little do they know that the dead are there, that her guests are in the depths of the grave.” And this I can see, too…I see how Folly calls, how the world sneaks in and chokes out wisdom with its loud distractions, its brash voice, with its lure and lust and empty promises. I see how, if I don’t make a conscious effort to check in with Wisdom, I might pass by her open door and drift away, might eat what Folly has to offer….a carnival feast of spun sugar, hot dogs on paper trays, mouths stained red with candy, fingers sticky, time and money spent on things that are so quickly consumed. Standing on the litter of the remains, her guests are too full of emptiness and soul-sick, frantically looking for more. I’ve eaten here before, felt the ache of excess while the emptiness I sought to fill remains.
It’s a daily struggle, to keep perspective. The buried treasure is so quickly forgotten. The things I must sell to secure it, empty as they are, seem to gain value and become harder to part with as the day goes on. The push and shove of daily life, the bustle and distraction of the world start to drown out Wisdom’s quiet invitation. The ease of Folly’s call grows louder as the flow of the crowd seems to carry me in her direction. Lord, let me return again and again to You. Let me return as distractions take my focus away from you. Let me return to your Word and Wisdom as often as I drift, as many times as it takes.
Throughout this day, may I return to the golden quiet of our Bible time together. As the day unfolds and distractions creep in, may I return to this table and remember where my treasure lays, may I pour all I am into that treasure and not into the void that has nothing to give back. May I pass by the noise and glut and lure of Folly’s call, pass by the lights and trinkets and smoke and mirrors of her carnival that distorts and distracts. May I join the progression of weary travelers, the pilgrimage to Wisdom’s abundant table. May we join hands together there, bow our heads in thanksgiving, and feast on that which will truly fill and will never run empty.