Long Lost Treasure

Those who say prayer accomplishes nothing haven’t dived deeply enough



The kingdom of heaven is like diving for sunken treasure and risking your life to find it.

A coworker catalogued and filed “As Built” plans for us engineers after we’d finished our construction projects. I was intrigued by Sandy’s hobby of deep-sea diving, often done at great risk to life and limb. At lunch discussions, I learned she had had extensive training to avoid any serious medical problems from her frequent dives to depths of 60 feet. I asked her why she loved to dive so often and so deep.

“The stillness of another world deep below the choppy ocean surface attracts me, besides the excitement of maybe discovering lost treasure,” she said, dreamily sipping her coffee.

“So have you recovered any valuables?” I asked, curious to know more.

“No, but I found a yacht, pilfered of all but a vanity mirror. Surface divers like me don’t go deep enough for real treasure troves on sunken Spanish ships. That would take special equipment and training with experienced mentors who’ve done it professionally.”

I wondered why she hadn’t tossed her government job to do deep-sea treasure hunting. She told me it is expensive to properly outfit a used 100-foot ship with diving accessories for depths of up to 2,000 feet. Then a crew of ten professionals would need to be paid monthly and well fed daily as they searched for sunken treasure. That might cost upwards of several million, just for starters. Recovering a fortune brings on specialized legal services to protect billions in precious gems and gold coins from any claims by the progeny of deceased owners and any local government’s territorial demands.

Listening to her explanation, I recognized her story as a parable for soul-searching. Those who complain that praying accomplishes nothing haven’t dived deeply enough for pearls of wisdom and rare noble conduct. Practiced contemplatives know what it costs to do so.

“It is like a merchant searching for fine pearls. When he finds one of great value, he sells everything he has to obtain it” (Matt 13:45).

Most people today do not pray intensely enough, and that is why society is falling apart. For many, the effort proves prohibitive.

If I had said to Sandy, “You’re pursuing illusion: your deep-sea diving offers only a dim reflection of spiritual reality,” she’d have cocked her head in confusion, disbelief, or anger, and replied, “You don’t know what you’re talking about. How can you say that without experiencing the indescribable tranquility under the sea.” That would have been exactly my point about prayer, but mere words would fail. The convincing is in the doing. So I said nothing more.

There is a certain futility in pursuing our vanities rather than the secrets hidden since the formation of the Earth. The naked truth is better left unsaid, though it can be made more presentable if clothed in a parable.

“Jesus did not say anything to them without using a parable. ‘I will open My mouth in parables; I will utter things which have been kept secret from the foundation of the world'” (Matt 13:34-35).


Richard M. DellOrfano spent ten years on a cross-country pilgrimage following Christ’s instruction to minister without possessions. He is completing his autobiography: Path Perilous, My Search for God and the Miraculous.

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