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We were driving home from a week in California this past Wednesday, cruising down a long stretch of highway through the Arizona desert, big rigs surrounding us on three sides. We’d been on the road for several hours with few significant mishaps (minus some backseat squabbles over the roadtrip movie selection) when the front of our van began to be pelted by droplets. The sky was clear, though, so this couldn’t be rain. We assumed the trucks ahead of us were throwing off rocks. Luke remained calm as he navigated through the deluge while the kids and I tensed, wondering what was going on and how we might get past the unidentified objects flying at our car.

As Luke eased past the truck that had been ahead and to the right of us, we quickly saw it was not rocks that were flying from the back of the truck, but small shards of glass streaming out of the big rig’s cab window. We had no clue why the driver had smashed out his window (perhaps his cab was hot and the window wouldn’t roll down?), but the window was freshly shattered and the driver was casually using his ballcap to wave glass particles onto the road. Whatever his reasons, our van’s windows and hood suffered the consequences of his actions, and our vehicle returned to Texas with some very unwelcome Arizona souvenirs in the form of dents, chips, and an 18-inch crack across the windshield.

Roadside challenges aside, our vacation had been wonderful, but we were eager to get home and back into our own beds Thursday night. Sadly, our bedroom reunions would have to wait as we arrived home to discover ants had moved in while we were away. The tiny back pests poured through the bedroom walls and across our comforters, and even after hours of preliminary pest control and relocating to (what we assumed were) safer sleeping spots, we all awoke to burning fire ant bites the next morning. So much for a relaxing homecoming!

Our time in California had been blissful: perfect weather, luxurious beach-front accommodations, meals and child entertainment provided (thanks Mom and Dad!!!). While in Orange County, land of the pampered and prosperous, it was easy to think that’s how life should be and wish we could remain in paradise. Our highway misadventures and unwelcome creepy-crawly houseguests quickly brought us back to the reality of a life that isn’t awful, but definitely isn’t paradise.

As shocking as our little mishaps were, I shouldn’t have been surprised by them. Even if life hadn’t shown me that this world holds many troubles, Scripture would have spilled the secret. Jesus talked a lot about the challenges we would face in this world, where moths and vermin (fire ants) destroy, and thieves (careless truck drivers) break in (to their own windows) and steal (from our emergency car fund). If my hope and joy rested on an expectation for a hassle-free life, I would be sorely disappointed.

Praise God that this broken world does NOT shoulder the burden of providing ultimate fulfillment. Christ, and Christ alone, is the keeper of our REAL treasure, and He has promised not to let us down. In His Sermon on the Mount, Jesus reminded His disciples of where their true treasure lay; focusing on the real treasure of their salvation and an eternity in paradise with Him would make tolerable the temporary hardships of this earthly existence.

It’s helpful for me to remember that Jesus did not speak out against wealth itself, nor did He condemn the celebration and enjoyment of earthly pleasures. There was nothing sinful in my relishing a nice vacation. But my heart is not to remain there; instead of bemoaning an ant infestation and damaged windshield while pining after a return to easy coastal living, I can fix my gaze on the Author and Creator of my true treasure who will fill my eyes and body, heart and soul, mind and spirit with Light, Beauty, Truth, and Goodness beyond my comprehension.

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