There’s lots of talk in scripture about the rarity and value of pearls. Jesus tells us in Matthew 13 that the Kingdom of God is like a pearl of great price. But why pick this gem?
A pearl serves as the protective coating around an irritating foreign object within the shell of an oyster. When a parasite enters an oyster its insides go to work making the foreign body harmless by molding it into the same substance as its shell. Death occurs only when its time to harvest the gem.
What can this teach us?
We live in a broken world. Each of us is born with original sin, causing us to be attracted to things that aren’t good for us. There are bad habits, tough relationships, and messed up families. We have our own fears and failures. There is death, loneliness, disappointment, shame, etc. Sometimes we put these things inside us and sometimes these things just happen to us; either way they were never a part of the original plan and need to be transfigured.
Through the Sacraments we are given a defense mechanism. The grace of Christ comes in to transform us. It changes our parasitic sinfulness and woundedness into something beautiful and rare. God makes heartache into His Image; He does not cover our sin He transforms it. Just like pearls are made of the same material as the oyster, so to God uses the same material we are made of to transform us. And what are we made of? HIM!
Christ is the pearl who has taken on all of our ugliness. He consumed the sinfulness of humanity and has given us the pearl of eternal life. But that’s not the end. Once we have that pearl I think we instinctively know that it has to be shared, has to be seen. What is the good of a precious gem if it cannot be enjoyed? And we know what that means.
Remember what happens to the oyster when we try to harvest a pearl? It dies. Matthew 16:25 says, “whoever loses his life for My sake will find it.” This is the true lesson of the pearl. We have to learn to let go of ourselves and allow God to transform the yuck in our lives. “Not my will but Yours be done.”
Not so pretty is it? Its slimy and messy, I may actually be judging the first person who popped one of these things open and said, “I think I’ll hang this around my neck.”
God doesn’t enter into and transform us just to make us feel better or to make something pretty. That would be the Crucifixion without the Resurrection. It wasn’t enough for God to simply expiate our sin. God wanted to transform humanity, to make us into something even better than before. God wants to make us more into ourselves; more into His image. He wants that pearl to tell the world there is something majestic worth adoring. Something precious worth guarding. Something beautiful worth ravishing. Something rare worth treasuring. Something lustrous worth revealing. Something wild worth taming. Something of HIS OWN DESIGN. God wants us to become the symbol of hope for others. The proof of His love for mankind. The best example we have of this is Mary. Mary’s Assumption into Heaven was a light to all humanity demonstrating the quintessence of this transformation.
Where does the analogy fall short?
Oysters don’t have an advanced neuro system; therefore, the process of making pearls doesn’t really bother them. But we notice every prick, every ounce of Christ inside trying to mold us. We push Him away with all our might trying to hold on to the parasite. So many times in my life I do the same thing over and over again fighting the “pearlization” of my body and soul. It’s mostly rooted in the fear that God is going to hurt me, that my will is somehow better and safer than His; but it’s not.
It sounds great to say, “today I’ll die for Christ! He must increase I must decrease! It is no longer I who lives but Christ who lives in me!” But in order to actually do it we must BE SINGLE MINDED and keep our eyes on Christ.
What tempts you to take your eyes off Christ? For me it’s the fear of being alone and childless. This fear comes in violent and intense bursts, it sometimes takes my breath away. Like Peter I feel as though I am drowning. Every time I go through a break-up, a wedding, or a baby shower I’m tempted to take my eyes off Christ. I find myself questioning why He would allow someone to hurt me or why I’m still alone. He never answers those questions, nor should He. Because that’s not the point. Fear is always a trick of the enemy to rob us of our pearls, to rob us of God. Instead, He uses those fears and hurts to make pearls! He gently reminds me who I am. I am the image of God, who is the Pearl of great price. He took the parasite of the world and transformed it into life. He wants to do the same for me. I just have to let Him.
The story of the pearl offers us a different perspective to conformity with God’s will. It does not promise our outcome but our redemption. The image of the pearl is an image of hope, an image of what will be if we allow God to work. If we do not allow Him to come and save us then our insides are simply full of parasites. Then, alone in toxic decay, we become unable to let anyone in. Perhaps it doesn’t cause us to physically die, but eventually we will just become empty shells. Jesus wants us to live life to the full! Sure the process is arduous and messy but also intimate and beautiful.
Are you willing to be transformed?
Dear Jesus, today we give you the parasites in our hearts that you would make jewels for Your Kingdom.