The child's delight, a package bright.
Anticipating, I stand waiting
To glimpse his joy at the unwrapped toy.
But then I see in his natural glee,
A paradox; the child is playing with the box.
Why so surprised with this un'guised?
For naturally he follows me.
His is my son. He's seen me have fun.
That I oft' love has not been above.
Not the treasure within, but the box that it's in.
Oh, to delight with clearer sight.
To see and show my values grow,
That they may teach the child to reach,
Not for earth's gain, and not for world's fame.
Not the box that it's in, but God's treasure within.
~Jim Bryant 3-7-1991
I wrote this poem several years ago, as a result of seeing a child opening a present, then after only a brief time, returning to the box in which it came. The imagination of the child to make the box be whatever he wanted it to be in his play was fascinating, but I was soon struck with the greater significance of the moment. No particular thought was given to the greater value of the gift in the giver's opinion. Value for the child was not measured in those terms.
I began to realize how much like children we continue to be in our "grown-up" world. We may find it an amusing paradox that the child's choice is the container over the gift within, but it truly does mirror our lives in the day to day "grown up play" in which we engage.
We are a society that more often places value upon the containers, whether it be the latest fashions to wrap ourselves, the houses where we live, or the cars in which we sit as we move from place to place. I recall a song written by one Malvina Reynolds in 1962 that gave her impression of the development of surburbia: "Little boxes on the hillside, little boxes made of ticky-tacky, little boxes, little boxes, little boxes, all the same. There's a green one and a pink one and a blue one and a yellow one and they're all made out of ticky-tacky and they all look just the same. " Her point is taking a somewhat different approach, but somehow I believe it describes the undeniable pursuit we have of the "box" mentality over the more significant contents.
"What's wrong with letting the child enjoy his game of imagination?" You may ask. I'm for helping the child develop his imagination, but teach in all of his life experience the importance of the values that go beyond the tangibles and our possession of them. Today our children are learning from us that what really counts is how much we can possess of this world's "containers" and the values and morals that come to play in his feelings and actions are given no guidance. He is learning an age-old adage that some less than good model parent has propagated: "Do what I say, and not what I do!" Most realize that this is applied directly opposite in the child's life.
The Scriptures give us a challenge that needs our application and passage to our children: "Lay not up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust doth corrupt, and where thieves break through and steal: but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust doth corrupt, and where thieves do not break through nor steal: For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also...But seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness, and all these things shall be added unto you." Matthew 6:19-21, 33
The meaning is clear. The "boxes" or "treasures on earth" won't last. You can't take them with you. But if you seek first the true gift of God, His kingdom, His righteousness, all found within relationship with Him and growth in His will and purpose, then those "boxes" we require in our journey will be given for their proper use and priority.
Dear brothers and sisters, may we be encouraged to seek the gifts within, FIRST!