That’s the burning question. I’m sure you’ve heard it many times. It’s a dramatic hypothetical to get us to identify what we truly care about.
Assuming my loved ones were safe, I know what I would grab from the flames: my journals. They are the irreplaceable record of my life over the past three decades. And if I had to be more selective, I would take the visual journals I shifted to a few years ago.
My wife will tell you, I work on these daily. First thing in the morning. Often in the evenings. In hotels. Even crammed into an airplane seat, where to let a marker roll off the tiny table is to commit it to the abyss.
They are my most treasured possessions. My great hope is that they will live far beyond me, sharing my faith and art to generations to come.
This morning, I have found a scene in Malachi that involves both a permanent record and a treasured possession. It’s easy to gloss over this small section as we flip eagerly toward the New Testament, but it’s a gem:
Then those who feared the LORD spoke with one another. The LORD paid attention and heard them, and a book of remembrance was written before him of those who feared the LORD and esteemed his name. “They shall be mine, says the LORD of hosts, in the day when I make up my treasured possession, and I will spare them as a man spares his son who serves him. (Malachi 3:16–17)
Book of remembrance. In the midst of a rebellious culture, those who still exalted and honored the Lord gather together to speak to each other. I assume they encouraged each other to keep going, to stand against society’s tide. And God not only sees, he celebrates them by creating a record of who was there. A permanent record. A journal of names (and portraits, I so wish) to be opened again in the Day of Judgment: THESE are my faithful few.
Treasured possession. This is not an emotionless record-keeping, a Bob-Cratchit dutiful accounting. God’s people are his treasured possession. Older translations used the word, jewels. We are the Lord’s valuables – close to his heart, never out of his sight. Precious in his eyes.
In a very real sense, when the fire of Judgment comes, we are what God will save from the flames. The one thing he cannot bear to lose.
What a glorious thought.
Lord, we read that we are your treasured possession and our names in your permanent record. Why are our hearts so sluggish in response? Teach us how impossibly great those truths are.