I had been quite unwell for a long stretch, months really. I’d make some small progress only to face another set-back. To be sure I was getting frustrated because I knew what was coming if I didn’t dramatically improve; Stephen was sending me home. The day he came home and announced that the arrangements had been made and that I had one month till departure it struck me harder than expected.
Then the lesson came.
It was darkening toward evening and John came up with some town news. He was clearly shaken and I had to patiently wait for him to get his words together. He had just returned from the river where a woman had died. He had seen her mangled wet body, her head mercilessly pinned between two large rocks drowning her. Her crushed hand was still under the rock which had let go toppling onto her. She had been pulling gravel out from under that rock with her bare hands. She was mining for gold. Had she counted the cost? Was the risk worth it? Apparently so. She had been willing to hazard all for a few shining flecks of temporal treasure. These are the stark-reality kind of lessons we learn in this rough mining village. We live among those who esteem the “treasures of Egypt” to be the greater riches. They literally risk anything — everything — for gold that will perish.
As the Lord would have it, this incident perfectly dove-tailed into another lesson from the same day, each intensifying the other. I was at that time reading a book entitled Loneliness by Elisabeth Elliot. In the chapter I had read that very morning, Mrs. Elliot was detailing the trial of loneliness which she and her husband, Jim, had experienced while awaiting the time of their marriage. She included this from a letter which Jim had written to her during their separation: “If all he is asking of us just now is the willingness to accept the relatively small discipline of loneliness, can we not see it as part of his gift of allowing us to walk with him? There is a pot of gold, a king’s reward, but it comes at the end of the journey.”
Miners here willingly accept conditions and hardships, they take risks which others reject or avoid; they count all else as loss in the pursuit of temporal fortune. As I think of this woman who died the question comes to me, Will I endure such hardness for the sake of the Gospel of Jesus Christ and the eternal treasure of men’s souls? Will I esteem the riches of Christ as the greater treasure?
Yes, there is a pot of gold, treasure laid up in heaven, but not now. Now is the time of trial, testing, and discipline; the time of faith and sacrifice of self. And right now, for Stephen and me, part of that price includes more separation. But we both esteem it better and are willing to pay the “relatively small discipline of loneliness” while looking unto Jesus and the King’s reward at the end of our journey.