Wednesday, September 3, 2008

Revealing Gold

I subscribe to an email that provides daily inspirational quotes. In all honesty, most of them aren't that inspirational or are so abstract it takes half a day to figure out what in the world they mean. It reminds me of when I took a course in college about Chaucer where my professor didn't teach us about Chaucer's works as much as he stood up in front of the room and read to us aloud in Old English.

I got a lot of napping done in that class. And it was one of those times when having the ability to write abstractly about nothing and make it sound convincing came in handy.

Today, though, my email quote was one that made me stop before I hit the delete button. I liked it. It's this quote by Tolstoy:

"Truth, like gold, is to be obtained not by its growth, but by washing away from it all that is not gold."

I've spent a lot of time in my life looking at ways to grow, be that in my relationships with other people, in my faith, in my career or in my every day life. There are so many books out there that talk about pursuing dreams, enriching your marriage and growing in your spirituality. There are ways to educate your mind and increase your value both financially and personally. And none of those are bad things.

But sometimes I think the more I read about how to work toward things, the further away I get from the truth of who I already am. It's like the walls in my Grandpa Joe and Grandma Florence's old farm house. When we went back to see it before it was going to be torn down Mom and I stood in the dining room and she talked about all of the different wallpapers she remembered being in that house. We took a corner and peeled back a bit of the paper to reveal another underneath. And another. And another.

I can't imagine how many layers must have been there because instead of taking down the old paper when it got worn, Grandma just added a layer. And I think a lot of us do that with who we are.

Sometimes it's life that adds the layers on us. We have grief that we don't know what to do with so we put it on and wear it until it becomes comfortable. We have jobs that have to be done with work that we can't seem to leave at the office, so we add a layer. We have to make sure our families are fed and happy and cared for, that our kids have every opportunity and make it to every activity. We worry and rush and worry some more. And we add a layer for each.

Sometimes, like those strips of wallpaper on the drafty walls of an old farm house, the layers add a little insulation. There have been many times in my life when I've been scared or overwhelmed or unsure of myself, and the layers came in handy. A new wallpaper over my worn self-esteem kept everyone thinking that I had it all together. I remember starting college and thinking that people would only want to be around me if I was confident and self-assured.

But when I insulated myself from appearing scared or unsure I also could have insulated myself from people who, as it turns out, love me at my weakest as well as my strongest. I'm just lucky that at some point my layers peeled away enough for me to make that discovery.

And that's why I like this quote. Truth is like gold. It is unchanging. The truth is that we are born into this world and we are loved by God before we've done a single thing to earn it. In a lot of our growing and searching, what we are often searching for is a way to be good enough for people to love and accept us. Sometimes I think we'd accomplish that easier if we'd stop searching for ways to be better and peel away the layers first. If we would just stop and wipe away all that isn't gold, we'd see the truth that who we are is already loved. And always has been loved since before we were born. We just have to stop long enough to make the discovery.


  1. I needed to read this...perfect for me for where I am...thanks

  2. Sara, What a gift you are. Everytime I think of all the wallpaper I have torn off and how much I have papered over, I will think of you!! By the way speaking of wall papering that was one of Jack's favorite jobs to help me with.

    You are "Revealing Gold" Love you~~~~~

  3. You dear sweet girl. You are wise beyond your years. Thank you for being such an inspiration for this 60-year-old.

  4. Just curious, much time, would you guess, do you spend in absolute silence? I mean, no computer, no tv, no music...just silence.

  5. Explanation as to why I ask the question: You speak with the wisdom of someone who has learned to give herself over to silence in a disciplined manner, something for which I have such a yearning and yet to which I've not been able to give myself. The tug-of-war within continues......

  6. @laura: I wouldn't say I have disciplined silence in any way... I'm not that structured of a person really. But I will say I crave quiet more than I used to. Today, for example, I have yet to turn on music or television, but it's not because I'm in deep thought or anything. I just haven't felt the need for noise. I do think I have less of a need to "fill the space" than I used to.

    If I tried to set aside specific time for silence and reflection I think it would feel like too much pressure and I would get restless. I mostly just try to be aware and keep myself in the moment whether there is noise or quiet.

    Is that what you were asking?

  7. Yes, precisely. You are spending time in the "School of Silence", as Matthew Kelly puts it. By-the-way, I don't know if you've heard of him, but Matthew is a Catholic Christian author/speaker, and speaks with wisdom beyond his years, as well. When we went to Italy this past spring, it was in association with the Matthew Kelly Foundation. Have you read any of his works? I know you'd enjoy him. He talks about learning how to become the "best version of yourself"....that's the phrase he's coined, as well as the premise upon which his decisions are based. If you wish, I would be more than happy to share some of his books with you!

    Being able to be in the moment...paying attention to now....being focused on whatever is at hand... Let's just say that I'm still very much in training!

  8. What a wonderful post. I am going to save it for deep digestion later. I have some layers to work on...I am seeking peace.

  9. Wow. What a message. You have some deep insight girl. Thanks for sharing that with the rest of us - it is just what some of us needed to hear!
    I pray for you often.
    You're such an inspiration!

  10. I've heard this described as God 'peeling your onion', but I like the way you put it so much better. Ugly wallpaper layers sounds so much more like junk than a layer of onion does. You sent me to Psalms 139:23-24. Thanks Sara

  11. Sara, the insights and wisdom you share each day are a gift to so many people. Working on those layers seem to be an ongoing task. Sometimes I don't realize those layers are even there and I go through the day like a robot. My goal is to make time for quiet moments so I can do more reflecting. Your words give me inspiration and make me think about what my priorities should be. You are in my thoughts and prayers, and I hope you know how special you are.

  12. Peeling away the layers, being willing to become vulnerable...I desire it. He tends to be relentless in the peeling away process, but at least when He does it, it's love.