Treasure Hunt: Kingdom in Your Eyes

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Contributed by Julie Atwood.

“Look out for God’s twists and surprises when it comes to finding clues,” Cheryl advises the group this nippy December morning. “Often He likes to play with us, and He’ll show us our clues in ways we’d least expect.” Though while she speaks she’s aiming her smile most toward Jenny and her son Hunter, who will soon experience their first Treasure Hunt, Cheryl’s words of advice come true for all of us this time.

The surprises start before we even leave the Tom Thumb parking lot. The first is Hunter himself, who decides at the last minute to leave his mom and join the team that is headed for Bass Pro. “If you join us, Henry won’t be the only male,” Abby encourages him with a grin. Then, soon as the four-person team headed for Walmart piles into Sharon’s car, three of us—Sharon, Jenny, and Brandy—all shout at the same time and spring right out again. I glance over to see them pounding toward a plump chocolate-skinned lady who’s plopped down, huddled over on the concrete lot.

As I slide out from the car and join my teammates, who are all clustered round the woman helping her to her feet and offering her combined words of comfort and advice, I learn that Gina toppled over from a dizzy spell. A crimson gash stretches across her left eyebrow, which apparently struck the concrete. Amidst my teammates’ offers to drive her to a hospital, several passersby stroll up. One of these peers into Gina’s eyes with professional interest. Then reassures her in an authoritative tone, “Your pupils aren’t dilated, so you should be just fine and okay to drive.” This woman adds for the benefit of us all, “I’m a nurse.”

As we all lay hands on Gina, she welcomes our prayers with warm and grateful hugs. We leave thanking God for her as well as for the caring nurse He provided for her on the spot. My teammates recall that Gina’s brilliant pumpkin-hued shirt matches Sharon’s color clue of orange. And it’s only after we’re headed toward Walmart that I again recall the gash above Gina’s left eye . . . and remember eye as one of my clues. Clearly Gina proved our first Treasure!

Only moments after we enter Walmart, another orange shirt catches Sharon’s eye. This one’s draped over a mom with a bouncy flaxen-haired small girl in tow. Sharon turns to me. “You talk to her, Julie.” As I slide my feet forward to approach and address my second Treasure ever, I’m surprised by the ease with which the words spill this time from my mouth. “We’re on a Treasure Hunt. . . .” And the moment I utter the word “prayer,” I’m no less amazed by how Melinda’s eyes flood with instant tears.

As my fellow Treasure Hunters join me and surround her, Melinda shares her story of heartbreak (a clue of both Sharla and Bonnye). “My daughter’s in jail in Colorado, and she lost one of her twin babies—Cody, my fifteen-month-old grandson—who we think might have been abused by the babysitter. His sister Cara is in foster care now, but they won’t let me visit her.” Her voice chokes on a sob as she continues, “I just want prayer that I’ll be able to go to Colorado and see my daughter and grandbaby.”

While we lay hands on Melinda and all take turns praying for her aloud, I feel heat seeping out from her neck . . . reassuring me the Spirit is there to comfort her. And as we bid goodbye to her and her small daughter Ruby, Jenny nudges me. “Do you see the cats on Ruby’s shirt?” I smile as she points out my clues—two white silhouettes of kittens on the little girl’s pink shirt.

We stroll about the toy section searching for Jenny’s clue of a brown horse on a stick . . . but that clue remains elusive.

Soon though, in nearby aisle, we spot another Treasure. Swinging down over Jose’s blue-shirted chest (blue was Sharla’s color clue) is Cheryl’s clue of a necklace . . . and, dangling from its end, a cross (one of Brandy’s clues as well as mine). Brandy approaches the caramel-skinned man, converses with him in her fluent Spanish. Jose confesses to us all with tear-bright eyes, “My sixteen-year-old daughter Rosa has leukemia.” As we lay hands on him to offer prayers for Rosa, we realize leukemia matches Jennifer’s clue of cancer. Jose receives our prayers with deep gratitude—filling us with Abby’s clue of hope for his daughter’s healing.

“Look, Julie.” Sharon points an encouraging finger as we head toward the Christmas section. “There’s your clue of a snowman.” The round-headed inflatables displayed against the side wall don’t quite match the goofily-grinning pointy-headed character I pictured behind closed eyes back at Tom Thumb. Nor does the felt stocking a nearby woman is examining in one hand. But since her stocking is also shaped like a snowman, we count Mary and her passel of kids as our next group of human Treasures . . . especially since she’s also clad in Brandy’s color clue of yellow. Mary proves thankful to receive our prayers for freedom from personal struggles.

But where is Jenny’s brown horse on a stick? We cruise the aisles of the Christmas displays, hoping he’ll show up amidst the plethora of brown reindeer. But he doesn’t.

Until, that is . . .

The instant we return to the Tom Thumb parking lot and head for Pallio’s Pizza Shop, there stands Cheryl in the doorway. And she’s wearing her hugest grin as she flaunts—especially for Jenny—the first photo on her smartphone. The picture’s crammed with a whole herd of brown horses on sticks . . . on display not at Walmart, but at Bass Pro.

Her next picture shows a snowman . . . this one the same grinning pointy-headed character I saw in my own vision.

“And here,” she continues, flashing the next photo with mischief sparking in her eyes, “is Brandy’s shark croc.”

No, it’s not what we first thought—a pair of Croc shoes decorated with sharks. Instead, a full-length crocodile rears up on display right alongside a full-length shark.

“Right by this exhibit,” she shares later on while we’re all inside munching pizza, “Bonnye and I saw a family who matched several of our other clues. Sarah, one of the three little girls, wore stripes—a clue of Abby, Brandy, and Henry—in Bonnye’s color clue of purple. And her daddy Dan wore another one of Bonnye’s clues . . . a black sweatshirt with a white design. He and the girls acted pretty shy, but the mom—Eloise—welcomed our offer to pray blessings on her family.

“A bit later on,” she continues, “Abby and Jennifer spotted this same family, gazing at the brown horses on sticks.”

Cheryl goes on to describe other surprise clues . . . such as the target practice area which, rather than the store by that name, met Cheryl’s clue of target (also received by Abby and Brandy). “Hunter and I saw a little girl there with her dad. Little Chloe wanted prayer for her scores in math. And later, in that same section, Hunter saw a lady wearing Cheryl’s clue of a jean overshirt. Liz had tons of kids with her, which we first thought might all be her own. But we found out they were a church group, and they really welcomed our blessings.

“Finally, on our way out, we noticed a whole group of people wrapping Christmas presents. We learned they were from a soccer organization. And among them we met June, wearing Brandy’s color clue of Best Buy blue. She requested prayer for her daughter Caitlynn, who’ll be graduating soon. As we left, we realized June’s name matched Henry’s clue . . . since it begins with the letter J.”

The following Sunday morning during church, Henry shares in rueful tones that he didn’t find any of his clues. But I realize that, along with his clues of stripes and the letter J, we’ve in fact all received one of his clues. The most important one—the crown that we sensed represents a king. For in finding God’s surprise twists and quirky sense of humor in a whole variety of unexpected clues, we were gazing at our Treasures through a related clue of Brandy’s . . . “kingdom in your eyes.”

Through the eyes of the ultimate King, the upside-down Kingdom will always carry twists of the surprising and unexpected.

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