A friend and I were walking the halls of an art gallery at Yale University the other day. It was quite impressive with ancient artifacts from all over the world displayed throughout the three floors. Intricately painted pottery, painstakingly carved statues, mosaics created from thousands of tiny inlaid pieces of art. And there within a glass casing lay a row of some of the most obscure pieces in the room. A row of tiny metal coins from the Roman empire. As I stared at these thin tokens of metal I noticed how plain they stood next to the other exhibits.
Here sit these small etched pieces of tin and everyday metals. Yet at one time they represented power within one of the most commanding empires throughout history. Owning these coins determined whether you served or would be served. They gave a man their confidence. Yet now these same coins are of no significant value other than the history they represent. One of the least ornate depictions of a culture full of artists.
These pieces of metal or paper; that depict a man’s life. What he thinks about, where his time is spent. The question that rings out, “how can I make the most coins?” How can I win the most power?
At least I know I have thought like this before.
This year I am re-evaluating the idea that the coins are the goal, or the security that comes along with them. Because security and power are the masks that these coins wear.
I personally don’t want to give a coin the power to dictate how my life will go. Instead, what if I decide first what goals I might have. What do I want my life to look like? What are the priorities that breathe life into me? And then work towards enough coins for this. Enough coins to breathe life. Not for the unreachable goal of “not enough”. But towards the goal of; What do I want my life to represent in the end? As my bedouin friend in Jordan stated, “You make your money, your money doesn’t make you.” If not money, then what IS making me?
God believers usually state that God is our security. Jesus spoke about how God takes care of the birds of the air and the flowers of the fields; so how much more will he care for us. That we aren’t to worry about what we will eat or drink or what clothes we wear.
It’s a sentiment I’ve heard often. Not to worry on these things. But practicing it has been a tough reality to reach. Yet these past months stripped from my everyday security, I realized that these things that I attributed so much power to in my life were just that…things. And things, like those little coins, have only the level of power over us that we ourselves give them.