FASCINATION, noun -- a powerful or irresistible influence on the affections or passions; unseen inexplicable influence. The ancients speak of two kinds of fascination: one by the look or eye, the other by words.
The Son of God challenged His listeners with these two parables of fascination:
The kingdom of heaven is like treasure hidden in a field, which a man found and covered up. Then in his joy he goes and sells all that he has and buys that field. (Matthew 13:44)
The man who found the treasure was a special man. He had enough faith to search. Maybe he'd heard people speak of a great and hidden treasure, and it awakened what he knew deep inside, that there must be something worth more than his eyes could see. He believed enough to search until he found it. Who knows how long it took? But he didn't give up. Then, when he finally found it, he hid it again to make sure he wouldn't lose it. All of his possessions couldn't compare with this new-found treasure.
Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a merchant in search of fine pearls, who, on finding one pearl of great value, went and sold all that he had and bought it. (Matthew 13:45-46)
The merchant had spent his whole life collecting this, collecting that... It all had some value to him. But he was searching for something. His life continued on as usual until something of far-surpassing value captured his attention: that pearl of great price. He'd never encountered anything like it before, and somehow he knew he never would again. He'd been around and seen a lot in his life, but never anything like this pearl...
What exactly did the men in these two parables see that caused them such fascination? What rarity was so valuable that they felt compelled to sell with joy everything else they had? What did their eyes perceive? What could have been worth everything they had? Why didn't the man just "add the treasure" to his life, or why didn't the merchant just "add the pearl" to his collection? What was so fascinating about the treasure and the pearl that their other possessions couldn't even compare?
Have you ever found anything like that?
I have. I was like the man who found the treasure. I was like the merchant. Here's my story:
I was twenty-two, almost done with college. Everything was going well. I'd survived the parties of my youth and was looking forward to growing up and trying to do good.
I did all sorts of things to be a better person. I got up early in the morning instead of sleeping in. I ate organic food. I decided to tell people the truth the best I could. I studied hard, and really tried to make it to work on time. I wasn't perfect at it, but I was getting better.
I told my girlfriend that I wanted to commit to her, and that I wasn't going to leave her behind to go to South America, which had been my previous plan.
I became a teacher's assistant in college, and when someone asked me to change his test so he could pass, I told him I couldn't do that.
I spent time with religious people and tried to understand who God was. I even went jogging sometimes to be healthy. I was nice to people at work. Oftentimes, on my way home from work, I would take left-over food and ride my bike down to the pier where all the homeless people sat, and give it to them. I was really trying to do good things.
But I remember one day, jogging through the beach town I lived in, thinking about my life. "Is this it? Is this all there is to doing good? Why do I still feel so empty?" I tried all sorts of religions. I chanted with Hindu monks. I meditated with Buddhists. I hung out with Taoists. I paid for Yoga classes. I hung out with Rastafarians. I made friends with Muslims. One day I was so desperate, I invited my Christian co-worker home to my house. I let him pray for me. I asked Jesus to come into my heart that night.
Life went on. No real change. I could sense that the path I was on was not the right one. What needs to change? Where is the truth? Will I know it when I find it? I had the sense that if I could just find God, I would give Him my whole life. Where is He?
But what could I do? There didn't seem to be any other real options presenting themselves, so just like the merchant who kept collecting pearls, I kept going about my business, heading to my college classes, and working hard. I tried not to backslide into doing the things I'd given up. But what was the vision? I was getting desperate.
When I felt this way, I would stop in at the used bookstore and pick up some spiritual book, or a novel with some noble but lonely character that I could relate to.
But just like that merchant and the man who found the treasure, I kept on seeking. I kept on digging.
One day I called my girlfriend and we met at the beach and talked about how empty life was. We made a plan to leave everything behind. She said, "Let's not think we know what it's going to look like." I listened to her, but it was hard not to picture us living in the woods and eating berries or something.
That night we decided to visit a farm we'd been invited to up in North San Diego County. It was only an hour away. I'll never forget what I saw. I was fascinated.
I saw human beings honoring their Creator.
I saw older men not trying to be cool, but standing on their convictions.
I saw husbands and wives who loved each other.
I saw children who were pure and who sang with all their hearts. They sang the words, "Come as you are. Leave your nets behind. Come, sing with me -- a new song you'll find."
I saw a real family.
I saw a home.
I saw real love.
I saw Yahshua. I saw His Body. I saw a life of a quality I had never seen before.
I saw the Kingdom of Heaven.
Something deep in my heart knew that this was what I had always been looking for. I saw God's love filling the souls of human beings.
My girlfriend saw the same thing I did. We knew we had to be a part of it.
I was fascinated. I couldn't look away. Even when I went back to my regular life after the time I spent at this farm, I couldn't forget what I saw.
Of course, there was a cost, but now I could only see my life and possessions in the light of my new discovery. They all paled in comparison to my treasure, to my pearl. So I gave it all up.
I dropped out my senior year of college, after going for five years.
I quit the best job I'd ever found at an organic food co-op.
I gave up my hopes of being a famous writer, just months after getting a short story published.
I gave away the library of books I'd accumulated over the years. They were all pointing towards this decision anyway.
My laptop and cell phone went, too, along with the $5,000 left in my bank account.
I gave up the image of myself I had so painstakingly carved.
I gave away notebooks of all the things I'd written: poems, songs, stories. Where were they leading people, anyway?
Along with all that, I gave up my life of sin which had really hurt people -- immorality, self-righteousness, greed, self-centeredness, passivity, back-biting...
Just like the man who found the treasure, and just like the merchant who found the pearl, I'm so thankful I had the opportunity to give up all I had. What if I had lived my whole life and never seen something worth giving it all for?
So, just like them, for joy I gave up all that I had to gain the Pearl. Yahshua is the Pearl. He is worth giving up everything!
If my story touches your heart, please come and visit us. The woman who was my girlfriend is now my wife, and we have three very special children.