Posted: Feb 9
The Golden Buddha: Longing to be Free
One of my favorite stories is of the golden Buddha of Bangkok. When the Burmese were about to attack the city, the solid gold Buddha was covered in mud plaster to hide its value. Two centuries later, still in encased in plaster, the Buddha was thought to be worth very little. But in 1957, when the Buddha was being moved to a new temple in Bangkok, it slipped from a crane and was left in the mud by workmen. In the morning, a temple monk, who had dreamed the statue was divinely inspired, went to see the Buddha. Through a crack in the plaster he saw a glint of yellow, and discovered that the statue was pure gold. It's now officially the world's largest solid-gold Buddha at nearly 10 feet high and weighing over 5 tons.
The image of the Buddha, shrouded in plaster, lying dormant for hundreds of years only to be re-awakened to its full splendor – do you ever feel like that? Do you ever feel weighed down, covered up, encased in something other than your true self?
Our journeys as Christian stewards often begin with a sense of longing to be free – even when we don’t always know what we want to be freed from! When we become mired in the trappings of today’s society, encumbered by the desire to acquire more, we can quickly find ourselves weighed down, covered in plaster, unlike our true selves.
So, how do we find our way back to being all that God wants us to be? How to be shed those things that would keep us from being our true selves—created by, and in the image of, a generous and loving God?
Lately, I’ve been re-reading C. S. Lewis’ The Voyage of the Dawn Treader. One of the characters is Eustace, a cousin of the Pevensies, who is a horrible, complaining, selfish boy. At one point in the story Eustace inadvertently stumbles upon a dragon’s lair. After a brief encounter with a dragon, Eustace is exhausted and falls asleep on top of the dragon’s treasure. When he awakes, he sees his reflection in the pool, and realizes the truth. “Sleeping on a dragon’s hoard with greedy, dragonish thoughts in his heart, he had become a dragon himself.” When the full magnitude of his situation hits him, Eustace, who is now a dragon, weeps.
Some time later, Eustace rejoins his cousins as his former, boy self. He then tells his story. First he had attempted to shed the scaly dragon skin like a snake sheds its skin. He attempted to peel off his dragon skin three times, but each time under each layer, emerged a new, equally scaly layer. Then Aslan, the lion, spoke to him and said, “You will have to let me undress you.”
Desperate to shed the dragon, Eustace lies down and allows Aslan to “undress” him. Eustace says, “The very first tear he made was so deep that I thought it had gone right into my heart. And when he began pulling the skin off, it hurt worse than anything I’ve ever felt. The only thing that made me able to bear it was just the pleasure of feeling the stuff peel off.… Well, he peeled the beastly stuff right off – just as I thought I’d done it myself the other three times, only they hadn’t hurt – and there it was, lying on the grass: only ever so much thicker, and darker, and more knobbly-looking than the others had been.”
Only with God’s help are we able to unencumber ourselves from the burdens of this life. Only by asking God to chip away at the plaster to reveal the golden treasure of our true selves will we ever be free. Only by inviting God to “undress” us and shed our knobbly-looking skins will we discover our true identities, made in God’s image, fully in God’s Holy presence.
Kristine Miller, CFRE, is a ministry strategist for Horizons Stewardship providing counsel to churches and non-profits who are seeking to raise funds to fulfill God’s vision for ministry. Kristine is a co-author of C.L.I.M.B. Higher: Reaching New Heights in Giving and Discipleship a book outlining the process and theology for churches that wish to reach the summit of transformational stewardship. Kristine can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org