On our way back from a family vacation in Gulf Shores, we decided to take a little side adventure to a small town in Northern Georgia.
Dahlonega, Georgia (pronounced by locals as “Duh-LON-iga”—I kept saying “DAHL-uh-nayga Nights” in my head…) is the site of the first major U.S. Gold Rush. It’s a beautiful town. Quaint and buzzing with energy. The town square has a courthouse in the middle with unique eateries and eclectic shops surrounding it. The streets surrounding the courthouse have sidewalks made of uneven bricks, with trees throughout, shading the people and traffic bustling in and out during the holiday weekend. Surrounding the town are the North Georgia mountains, the start of the Appalachian trail.
There are several waterfalls throughout the area, places to canoe/kayak, wineries you can tour, live music and arts… It’s just a really unique place.
Our favorite thing we enjoyed? Hunting for treasure.
During our brief stay in Dahlonega, we went to two different gold mines. We had brief tutorials on panning for gold and went to work.
And guys? This was serious. Knox had gold fever the moment he found out where we were headed.
In the car:
Me: Knox, remember, we aren’t going to be disappointed if we don’t find any gold, right?
Knox: Wait… what? I’m going to be disappointed if we don’t find any gold…
So… some of us had expectations.
I learned a lot while panning for gold:
There is a certain way you hold the pan and fill the pan and shake the pan. And it takes a while. You dip the pan into the water, then you shake and shake and shake and shake. And dip the pan deep down and watch some of the sand escape the pan. And you freak out that you’re going to lose some of the gold when you dip the pan into the water. But the guy reassures you that gold weighs 16 times more than sand and that the gold will stay behind in the pan. He tells you to keep shaking.
So you shake and shake and shake and shake. And shake and shake. And dip the pan deep down and watch some of the sand escape the pan. And you freak out that you’re going to lose some of the gold when you dip the pan into the water.
And the guy reassures you again.
So you keep shaking. And repeating. And worrying.
And the guy keeps reassuring you.
But you’re sure that you’ve messed up and that all that shaking has surely allowed SOME of the precious gold to escape. But you listen to the guy. And you shake. And shake. And dip. And slowly, ever so slowly, the sand gets down to “a handful” and you take the pan to the guy, just like he told you to do.
And the guy takes the pan and dips a few more times. “You did a good job,” he says. “See all that black powder? That’s iron. That means you did a good job sifting, because it stays to the bottom.” And you feel proud.
But worried that the black powder is all that is going to be left in the pan. Because surely all that incessant shaking and dipping has lost any chance of gold.
But the guy does a few more dips and you see it. There, sparkling at the top of the pan are shiny pieces of gold.
At least that was our experience.
And I can’t help but be moved by this.
I’ve heard before that the Greek root of the word “crisis” means “to separate.”
When I think of “crisis,” I think of those moments when the world has turned upside-down.
When the way you used to navigate the world is suddenly uprooted.
When the things you never would have wanted or expected actually happen.
When the foundation is suddenly crumbling and you find yourself floating around grasping for something to keep you from floating away.
Disappointment. Death. Regret. Betrayal. Illness. Deceit. Failure. Finances. Mistakes.
And your world is shaking, shaking, shaking.
You think it’s stopped and then it takes a big, deep dip.
And you’re worried. Worried you might lose it all.
But you hear the Voice tell you that when everything stops shaking and dipping, the important stuff remains. The real remains.
So you hang on.
“In skydiving… they say when you hit the ground, it doesn’t kill you. It’ll break every bone in your body, but it doesn’t kill you. It’s the bounce. It’s the second time you hit. So… this is my strategy. If I fall, I’m grabbing the grass.”
And the shaking and shaking and shaking and dipping continue.
And you’re hanging on, fearing that everything will be lost in the shaking. All you can see is the mess. And the loss. And the hurt.
You don’t know how it’s going to end.
But you know at some point, the shaking and shaking and dipping will end.
Because everything has an end.
So you keep hanging on.
You breathe. You survey the damage.
For a while, you might only see the iron, the stuff that was strong enough to withstand the shaking. But it sure doesn’t look like treasure.
But you wait. You breathe some more. You let time settle in and work its magic.
And there it is. The gold.
There might be sifting in your job, your relationship, your finances.
In your family, your country, your health.
You might feel sifting in your faith.
You might feel sifting in your friendships.
You might feel yourself being sifted.
And sometimes when the shaking is over, the worst case scenario we imagined could be true. We might not like any part of the dirty iron left in the pan.
But I think if we breathe. If we examine closely…
We’ll find the gold.
The gold may appear as an opportunity we would never have take advantage of if we’d kept on the path we were on.
Or maybe the gold is time that you now have to focus on something within yourself.
Perspective is almost always among the shiniest pieces of gold you realize.
But I think most often the gold that is left after sifting comes in the form of people. The people who hang on with you during the shaking and dipping. Gold.
And that includes you.
Because during all this shaking and shaking and dipping, you’ve been sifting yourself, getting rid of all the excess, the things you’ve added on to you that aren’t really you. And the gold that remains in you after a crisis can be the “you-iest” you you’ve ever been. Closer to the true you than ever.
If you look closely.
And all that gold? It’s the Good.
You never want to go through all the sifting. You shudder when you look back and remember.
But all that Good can shine up and sparkle and radiate so much that all that shaking and shaking and dipping gets covered in Light. And you take that Good and you cherish it for the treasure it is.
Because you know what it took to get there.