When I was twelve I was the adventurous type. I lived in a small town in Western New York and there was much opportunity to explore the local creek and surrounding countryside. There were waterfalls along the creek, as well as many other dark forest legends that could be investigated. And I checked them all out. What else is there to do for a twelve year old boy?
I had two friends who came with me on many of my excursions and together we would comb the countryside. I was also into fishing and I found out that the local reservoir was rich with Rock Bass and Sunfish. At different times during the summer I would have my parents take me there to fish.
One day I had the idea that we could camp out at the reservoir and fish all night long. This was before they fenced it off and posted NO TRESPASSING signs. I talked to my friends about it and they were game. It would take a little convincing of our parents but we all thought with a little begging and whining, we could persuade them to let us do it.
Finally the day was set. One of our parents drove us to the drop-off point and we hiked with our backpacks, sleeping bags, and fishing poles through the woods and up and down the ravines to the far end and remotest part of the reservoir where we set up camp.
It was going to be an overnight campout to end all campouts and it was indeed filled with memorable experiences.
First, there was the snapping-turtle incident. We caught a stringer-full of fish, all of which a giant snapping turtle ate when it engulfed the entire stringer that we had kept in the water over night. When we pulled the very heavy stringer to land in the morning, the turtle regurgitated the whole thing and slipped to deeper waters leaving the half-digested fish guts, bones and heads clinging to the stringer. We weren’t very excited about fishing after that.
Then there was the sleeping bag incident. When we first arrived we picked out our spots and laid our sleeping bags on the ground where we would sleep. Then we went about exploring, hunting for firewood and fishing. When we finally crawled into our bags we discovered that they were wet inside. We hadn’t foreseen that the slightly damp ground we laid them on would seep through our bags. We slept all night in cold wet bedrolls. We were drenched and freezing and it had not even rained.
These were experiences we would like to forget. But they didn’t dampen our spirits.
The next day, since fishing had lost its luster, we decided to explore. As we walked through the woods covered with leaves, I tripped over something.
I said, “What was that?”
One friend said, “Probably just a stick. You know there are thousands of them out here” he said mockingly. “Or maybe you tripped over your feet…ha…ha!”
However, my curiosity was peaked because it hadn’t felt like a stick. I dug through the leaves and held up the culprit. I couldn’t believe my eyes.
It looked like a sword, but was too small. And it was too big for a knife, and way too dull.
Then my other friend said, “It’s a bayonet. I have seen them in pictures from my history books. It looks just like them. I’ll bet anything it is a bayonet.”
We went right back to camp and I coddled the prize for the rest of the trip until I got it home. My mother helped me rub it down with rust solvent and we discovered that it had French writing on it with a date, 1877, etched into the metal and a serial number. It was a French Bayonet made in 1877.
How it got where it was, I have no idea. We have since investigated its worth and have found that it wasn’t going to make us rich. However, it represented a different kind of treasure for me, and I have kept and valued it all these years.
Jesus told a parable in Matthew 13 about a treasure. “Again, the kingdom of heaven is like treasure hidden in a field, which a man found and hid; and for joy over it he goes and sells all that he has and buys that field” (vs. 44). The parable talks about the value the Kingdom of God has in the hearts of people who find it.
Every person dreams about discovering a pot of gold, a bag of money or a buried treasure; even the people of Jesus day. Jesus tells the parable in an effort to open the eyes of his hearers to the worth of knowing Him and having our relationship with him intact; which He says is what it will take to enter the Kingdom of God.
He says in the parable (my paraphrase), “The man went and sold everything he had to obtain the field so he could claim the treasure as his own.” Paul wrote that he did this same thing. “Yet indeed I also count all things loss for the excellence of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord, for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and count them as rubbish, that I may gain Christ.” Philippians 3:8
Every possession, aspiration, accomplishment, promotion, level of wealth, acquisition of power or fame; or all them together, is not worth the treasure of Knowing God and being a child of His. Jesus is saying: “If you discover the truth of how to obtain a true relationship with God, give up everything you think to be valuable, go and trade it in for the greater treasure of knowing God’s Son Jesus Christ and possessing eternal life through Him.”
My bayonet reminds me that one day, many years ago, this is what I did. I traded all my personal hopes and dreams for something I had come to discover was the greatest treasure of all.