When I first picked up Treasured: Knowing God by the Things He Keeps, I didn’t know what to expect. I had never heard of the author, Leigh McLeroy. Glancing at the clichéd cover art, it looked like a wimpy feel-good woman’s book that might contain phrases like “Love yourself, because God thinks you’re special.”
Turning the book over and reading the description on the back wasn’t incredibly enlightening either: “God is a collector, too, whose treasures are tucked securely into the pages of His book: a golden bell here, an olive leaf there, a scarlet thread, a blood-stained cloth, a few grains of barley. Each of these saved artifacts reveal a facet of His heart and tells the story of a Father whose most precious possession is … us.” Hmmm. A golden bell? I wasn’t convinced I was going to like this book. You might say, I judged the book by it’s cover.
But I opened the cover and was delightfully surprised.
The fact is this book is hard to pin down. Part devotional, part memoir, Treasured defies being put snuggly into a category. Not only is it drenched in biblical truth, it’s beautifully and creatively written as well! Each chapter ponders a specific and often overlooked detail from the Old Testament that highlights a facet of God’s care for me.
Take the fig leaf clothing Adam and Eve make for themselves after sinning in the Garden of Eden. McLeroy uses the leaf as a reminder that it is God who personally covers me. Although, like Adam and Eve I too experience shame, it’s God who is the remover of shame, and He took care of that problem for good. Moving back and forth between the biblical account and her own life story, McLeroy reminds us that:
God did not leave Adam and Eve for long in their flimsy fig-leaf wardrobe…. He made them more durable garments of animal skin and clothed them Himself. His covering confirmed that there was something to their shame, and it bore witness to the innocence they had, in fact, lost. He agreed with them that they now needed covering. But He insisted on doing it Himself, rejecting their self-covering and replacing it with a superior one of His own design. Later He would permanently solve the problem of their shame (along with yours and mine) with the blood of His own Son, clothing His children instead with the righteousness of Christ and radiance of His resurrected glory.
Each chapter comes back to the gospel and makes application to my own life. In simple yet elegant writing, McLeroy makes Old Testament narratives come alive and resonate with my experiences today. Coming back to the idea of fig-leaf clothing, MeLeroy reminds us that we too create our own “do-it-yourself shame cover-ups…. Piousness can be a cover-up. Doing right. Being right. Living right. These are my fig leaves … but they’re never enough. Not enough to justify my sinful nature or even hide from myself the fact I’m fatally flawed. At the end of the day, none of my ad hoc fig leaves work.” Each chapter ends in a way that points me back to God and His work on my behalf.
Treasured is encouraging and inspiring. Yet the encouragement it offers isn’t simplistic or sappy sweet. Never shying away from life that can be filled with real pain and disappointment, McLeroy deals with the real hard aspects of life, but ultimately points us to the real hope as well. In the chapter on Ruth and Naomi, McLeroy reminds me that when it comes to suffering:
There are some losses that simply cannot be explained. It’s almost as if God speaks a higher language than the one I use to form my questions — and that my failure to understand His answers is precisely the point at which my faith begins to stretch and grow. I wonder if God’s answer to “How can I understand?” might be simply, “You cannot. But I do.” And I wonder when I will ever learn that this could, in fact, be more than enough.
No matter what my situation, God is there. Really, that could sum up Treasured. He is a God who sees, who provides, who speaks, who gleans joy from sorrow, who writes His truths on my heart. When faced with hard circumstances, I need to remember “God is at work in the very parts of the story we’d most like to skip over.” And I’m thankful to Treasured for reminding me of that.
The next time I judge a book my its cover, I’ll think again. In the mean time, I’ll have to check out McLeroy’s other two books and see if they’re as good as Treasured.