Palms waved on Palm Sunday, fronds rattling, applause in the wind. I walked hand-in-hand with my firstborn toward our abandoned umbrella, its fringe fluttering near the shoreline.
Bare feet shuffled over sandy cobblestone, felt the grit, the heat. I clicked my tongue like the clop-clop of hooves on that old Jerusalem road before crowds laid down coats and branches to dampen the sound. The rightful King could have come in on a high horse but He picked a beast of burden instead, the animal with a cross on its back, a humble donkey…and a baby one at that.
We stepped out onto soft sand. And there, Elliot saw it first– a treasure peeking out. I bent low to see it from his angle. From remnants of a windblown sandcastle, he pulled out a shell, a conch glazed in whitewashed bronze.
He was showing me again– the way to see things first is to get down low where the good stuff is. For the small and the humble it’s right in reach.
I thought of the children in Jerusalem. They saw it first– the promise come true. They shared their hosannas loud, shouted out “Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord” and made the chief priests reel.
I traced the edge of the shell and followed as it spiraled in a mini Via Dolorosa around to the apex, the top of the hill. It was the best we’d seen all day, barely chipped. And it matched the illustration on the front of the books I’d gathered to give to my sisters-in-law on our week at the shore. I needed three more shells, but I’d take what I could get– I smiled at this one little surprise.
Later, I would read a chapter to match that afternoon’s reflections in the sand, and I would smile again at the thought that Someone knew what was on my mind: “But what humbles like an extravagant gift?” Ann Voskamp asked, “And hadn’t I felt that joy of small, child-wonder when I paused to give thanks?” She went on, “And in that place of humble thanks, God exalts and gives more gifts and more of Himself, which humbles and lays the soul down lower.”
I pressed my knees into the powdery white. “Look, another!” I pointed. Elliot dug wild like the little Andaman Sea beach dogs I’d told him stories about. Shell dust rained to the ground and a whole collection of almost-perfect conches emerged, more than enough to adorn the gifts for the girls.
We stashed the treasures in any pocket we could find and walked toward the shore to do what we came for. We lowered the umbrella and pulled it from the sand. I tucked it under my arm to carry it the distance, my other arm around Elliot.
I thought of what Jesus said in sight of the walk to Skull Hill, how He, the Man of Sorrows, cried back to Jerusalem. He had wanted to gather his people in like children under His arm, but they were unwilling.
They couldn’t know the Messiah any other way. He urged them, “You will not see me until you say, ‘Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord!”, same words sung out by those children on His entry into Jerusalem. In His lament, He echoed what He said to the disciples earlier, that unless we change and become like children we can’t be with him. It’s simple– we can only find Him where He is, with the humble and lowly, stooped down.
I turned to look at the water once more. Quiet waves drew back. The tide went low and left behind bubbling sand. There, little gifts waited for those who would bend low, those ready to become small as children.