A few weeks ago, my husband and I took our family on a trip to the mountains so our kids could finally see snow. We are from a sunny beach town, where cold sand and the rare icy day is the closest thing we get to snow. On the first day there, we realized that the weather that day wasn’t calling for any snow. And to top it off, there hadn’t been snow there in days, but instead it was just raining. A cold and dreary day in the mountains with nothing to do. I googled some things to do around town and found a gem-mining place to keep the kids occupied for a good hour. There were a lot of buckets to choose from, ranging from tiny to a full wagon full of dirt, stones, and gems. I opted for the middle line. We had 5 kids with us and I needed it to last more than 5 minutes. As we started mining, I was surprised how fast it went by. The kids dumped big scoops of dirt in their sifter and shook it in the water for about 30 seconds, leaving what looked like big rocks or dirty gems left in their sifter. They were elated to have gotten something, so they dumped it into their bags and immediately started on the next scoop. I was slightly panicked. It wasn’t a cheap activity and at the rate we were going, we would be done in 3 minutes tops. So I started a new rule… once you think you are done sifting, stop and spread your stones a little bit and sift some more. Repeat that a few times and see what you get. Come to find out, the more the sifted, the less they were left with. At first they were disappointed in that. They wanted more. But then, when we dumped our “treasures” from that first scoop back into the sifter for the second time and sifted it a little more, we realized that some of those treasures, weren’t treasures at all. They were clumps of dirt that didn’t make it through the sifter because of the space it took up. Or they were rocks that looked like gems when covered in dirt, but once cleaned off, we could see it for what it really was. The kids started realizing that yes, the more they sifted, the less they got. But what they got, were true treasures. The more they sifted, the more apparent what was actually a gem. They were able to easily pick out the rocks and dirt from the true treasures and sift more until all that was left were the gems that they came there for.
After an hour, we had made it through our bucket and headed home each with our small, but cherished bags of beautiful gems. It got me thinking. Isn’t that a bit like life? Isn’t that a bit like becoming?
As adults, we think we have life figured out. Afterall, we are in charge of the sifting. We get to sift out the bad parts of life – the unhealthy relationships, the unfulfilling jobs, break the bad habits- to make life good. To make life fulfilling to us. But many of us, myself included, are like my kids. We hastilty grab on to the sifter, sift for just a moment and when we see things that appear good, we stop. There are big clumps of things that appear good, so they must be good. In life, it looks like that high-paying job, or your kid made the competition level of gymnastics, or that big group of friends that you are included in. If we stop sifting there, we are momentarily satisfied. We have what we came here to get, and we let it be. But sometimes, maybe right after we get home, or weeks later, when we examine this collection of gems, we stumble on some things that we didn’t expect. What we thought were gems were actually big clumps of dirt. And there are so many of them, and when we try to break them down, they dirty everything else around it, including the actual gems in our life. I have learned, to really become the best version of myself, or to live greater life, I don’t stop sifting when things appear good. I pause, examine what I have, and then I keep on sifting. In life, deciding to continue to sift is sometimes gruesome. It requires us to continue to do work, even though the work seems complete. It requires us to seek help and guidance- to pray that our path is made clear, or for revelation of things that aren’t fruitful or good in our life. We have to sift and sift, and each time we think we are done, we continue on until it is mistakenly clear that what is left, is good.