The Italian restaurant we’d found was a hidden gem: a place with phenomenal reviews, but one tucked away in a nondescript alley with very little to show for its excellence. As we sat and the table, the waiter listed the specials. And then paused.
“There is one more special,” he said. “Let me share it with you. Excuse me.”
When he returned, it was with the manager. The manager was holding a small wooden box between his palms, and he sat it down on the table with a flourish. He couldn’t hide his smile. “Tonight’s special,” he said, and lifted the lid of the box.
Inside: a handful of unremarkable black orbs. For a moment I was bewildered – and then I inhaled and recognized the scent immediately. “Truffles,” I said.
“Truffles,” the manager affirmed. “Freshly flown in. When these are gone, they are gone.”
Black truffles are one of the most valued mushrooms in the world. In Italian cuisine, they’re often shaved delicately on top of otherwise very lightly dressed pasta right at the table. And they are expensive. Without asking, I knew the night’s special truffle dish would be exorbitantly priced.
That’s because truffles – particularly different types – aren’t easy to get. You can’t just pick them up at the store. They’re not available just anywhere, and at least in part because they’re not available just anywhere, they increase in value as a result.
This is true of many things, especially in our Western culture. If a restaurant has to turn down customers seeking reservations, it’s considered a good thing: they’re so exclusive they essentially have to close their doors to those clamoring for a seat. People boast about tickets to sold-out concerts. Artworks and books that see limited runs are often rarer and more valuable than mass-produced commercially-available works.
Scarcity = value. The rarer something is, the better it is.
We often don’t value what we have in abundance. Ask any adult who’s had to deal with dandelions. Think about, in America, our blase attitude toward robins and squirrels. If something is too abundant, to us it becomes common. Cheap. We take it for granted. We stop noticing it and instead seek out the things that are rare, that are unique, that are difficult to find and keep.
But God turns this entire economy on its head.
Everything that God gives to those who ask is free – and yet precious. Everything that God gives is infinite in abundance – and yet valuable beyond measure. Mercy? You can’t outrun it. There is always more. Grace? Loads there for the taking, and more there after that. Love? Try to find the end of it. You can’t. In His reckless generosity, He opened the storehouse doors and gave His children everything that was worth anything at all.
This was of course valuable. Valuable beyond price. So valuable all of us here could never possibly pay for it, and so Jesus did. But because Jesus paid that exorbitant and unimaginable cost, grace and love and mercy come to us for free.
And yet I think that precisely because of such abundance, we can treat God’s grace and love as though it is common. The way we respond to Easter convinces me of that. On this coming Sunday, on this one day, we all sit down to recognize the enormity of what Christ did and what it means. We recognize on that day that, though grace and love are abundant for believers, they are not common and came at great cost.
But why just the one day?
I’ll be honest: Easter is a convicting time for me. During Holy Week, as I get more and more excited to reflect on Jesus’ sacrifice on Friday and celebrate the resurrection on Sunday, I recognize that I should be so awed and reverent every day. What Christ accomplished should in some way transform my heart every day. I should be overcome with repentance but delighted in joy by redemption every day.
What I keep in my mind as the day approaches, and I hope after it departs, is this: what is abundant is not necessarily common or cheap. My culture and my society teaches me differently, but I understand the lie in that. I have an endless well of grace and love and mercy and hope any time I want it, and the truth of that abundance – that I can have as much as I want whenever I want – does not make those things common.
It makes God even more remarkable.
As Easter approaches and then beyond, don’t make the mistake of taking the basics for granted. Carry your reflections and your gratitude and your joy in your heart every day and try to renew it as much as you can. Don’t let the great abundance of God’s gifts – their frequency, their consistency – blind you to how valuable and precious they are. It is a testament to God’s generous nature that He wants the richest of everything to be available to all, and for so little in return.
He is risen, indeed. May you all, my brothers and sisters in God’s great family, have a blessed, enriching, and transforming Holy Week.