Pearl

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.”

Speaking of yuck: Have you ever seen a pearl on the inside of the oyster? Allow me: pearl harvest 2

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.

Amen.

The Power of a Waiting Woman

I’ve never been very good at waiting. The funny thing is, as a child, my mother used to say, “Maggie, if you move any slower you’d walk backwards!” Didn’t seem to mind waiting then, apparently I had all the time in the world. Or more truthfully, I became jaded and wounded by a world whose futures have been less than delicate.

The problem now is, I don’t know how to stop moving. Constant movement has created the delusion that I’m at the helm; I’ve barricaded myself behind the toxic walls of control and toil. In quiet desperation I set up rules for living and followed them. Everyday I told myself that as long as I followed the rules I was on the “straight and narrow.” I immersed myself in stuff: people, work, ministry, writing, reading, movies, Netflix, decorating, knitting, you name it; I kept busy.  Busyness kept me from having to examine this crazy too closely. When something makes me stop and (ugh! Here comes that ugly word) WAIT, I become restless, grumpy, and agitated, it’s like I forget how to be a Daughter of God. I forget that being a woman IS waiting.

Recently I’ve been waiting for many things. I wait in my job, on a struggling ministry, in furthering my education, and for more edifying social situations. He has me painfully waiting for my grandmother to pass — literally every breath she draws is painful and labored. It’s hard to sit on the edge of her death waiting for peace. I wait for answers to some health issues. I wait on good men who constantly humble me, and whose hearts are equally wounded by yesterday’s harshness and tomorrow’s empty promises. Everyday has been a struggle.

In my agony I cry to the Lord to come and save me, and He has! He always does. Nothing in my situation has changed; but He’s given me renewed confidence and hope in His mercy.The Lord is teaching me the power of being a waiting woman. Waiting is the breeding ground for virtue. In waiting we give ourselves time to self reflect and really see ourselves more clearly and the work of the Lord more tangibly. Waiting requires a certain kind of interior silence and solitude. In that silence we find God. This is what I’ve been learning:

Waiting is God’s gift to woman.

In the Garden of Eden the first woman failed to wait! She had three choices. We know the choice that she made and its deadly ramifications. The first woman could have gently reminded Adam of his authority over the creatures or she could’ve simply waited for him until he stepped up. Either choice involved waiting. This helps shed light on the role of waiting in the life of a woman. Sometimes we are called to that first sort of waiting other times to the latter.

Look at Mary. Her whole life was one of waiting. She waited for Christ for nine months. After He’s born they were exiled to Egypt for a time. When He’s presented in the temple Mary is told that ‘a sword will one day pierce her heart’ – imagine waiting on that prophesy. Then she waits three days to find Christ in the temple. At the wedding feast in Cana she gently encourages Christ to change water into wine and waits with submission for His response. In Mark 3:32 we read, “Your mother and brothers are outside looking for you.” (Girlie translation: Your mom is waiting for you). Mary waited at the foot of the cross for three hours and another three days for His Resurrection, followed by forty days for the Ascension and another nine for the coming of the Holy Spirit. She waited to meet her beloved child in Heaven and now she waits for us to know the loving Sacred Heart of her son. There is power in her waiting as there is power in our waiting! I think we are tempted, I know I am, to think that waiting is stagnate. Mary shows us that there can be no greater privilege than to wait for God’s time. We as women get to do that in a special way, as the image of Mary.

In my own life of waiting there is literally nothing I can do to change my circumstances. But I can stop and be still and ask the Lord what He has for me in these situations.

Patience in my job search has taught me the value of work.

Patience with the ministry has taught me  “to everything there is a season,” a time to learn and a time to teach.

Patience in my social life has taught me to see people for what I can give them instead of what can be gained from them.

Patience with my dying grandmother has taught me to love life and embrace the now. Nowhere is God more present than in the now! I’ve learned to thank God for the power of redemptive suffering. Grandma’s slow death has been a beautiful reminder of my own mortality and reliance on God’s mercy.

Patience in the health issues has taught me that worry is fruitless.

Patience in the want to further my education has taught me to trust in God’s providence.

Patience with men has taught me how Mary loves. This is the love that undid Eve’s impatience. Everyday is one of detachment and surrender to God’s will and plan. The rules are good only if they are leading you to love. It’s a lesson in learning that every moment is God’s gift to us and should be cherished. I’ve had so many opportunities for growth at the hands of the men God places in front of me.  Through them Jesus calls me out onto the water.

And in all of these moments I’ve learned to be patient with myself. How easy it would be if it only took failing once to get it right. Above all else Jesus wants us to TRUST Him! He uses situations in our lives to make us wait but it’s really Him we are waiting for or on. Waiting does not guarantee our will but His. Society would have us believe that its undignified for a woman to wait on anyone or anything but Mary shows us something different. Waiting prepares the soul to see like God sees. In waiting God molds and forms us more and more into His Image. This is the power of a waiting woman. A waiting woman helps the world see God! You no longer look at her and see her action but His.

Psalm 27:14 says, “be stouthearted and wait for the Lord.” And hopefully with a little practice and patience we can reply with Psalm 62, “For God alone my soul waits…I shall not be greatly moved.”

Are you waiting?