I was thinking today about the pearl.
As most of you probably already know, a pearl is developed when some kind of a foreign object, such as a grain of sand or a bit of food matter, slips between one of the outer shells of the oyster and its mantle–the protective layer that covers its organs. In order to protect itself from irritation, the oyster immediately begins covering the irritating object with layers of the same mineral substance that fashions the oyster’s shell. This substance is called “nacre”, or “mother-of-pearl”, and as each layer of nacre is put down, the beautiful, iridescent gem is formed.
Two things about the pearl really hit home to me today. First of all, not all oysters have pearls. The only ones that will grow a pearl are the ones that are inflicted–either accidentally, as in the case of a natural pearl, or embedded as in the case of a cultured pearl–with an irritant. Secondly, it is interesting that not only is the oyster the only creature that will develop a pearl in the face of irritation, but the pearl is the only precious jewel that grows in a living organism in response to irritation…
We are all familiar with “irritations” that are introduced into our lives. Our “grain of sand” may look like chemotherapy, divorce, loss of your home or job, death of loved ones, etc., but whatever it may be, in the face of these “irritations”, we just want them to go away. What if we were to learn from our oyster friends that these “irritations” are really occasions to grow a “pearl”?
But wait. This isn’t a fair comparison. How can a human grow a pearl?
We have often heard the term, “pearls of wisdom”.www.merriam-webster.com defines these “pearls” as “wise words or statements”, andwww.thefreedictionary.com describes them as “an important piece of advice”. Of course, while in the midst of those “irritations” that are introduced into our lives, wisdom is something we long for. Just like the oyster’s response to irritation is to grow a pearl, could the very wisdom we crave actually become a product of the “irritations” we are experiencing? Is the pain and suffering really worth the tiny bit of wisdom we might glean from these “irritations”?
Interestingly, wisdom is highly valued in the Bible. Check out the following passage from Proverbs:
“Joyful is the person who finds wisdom,
the one who gains understanding.
For wisdom is more profitable than silver,
and her wages are better than gold.
Wisdom is more precious than rubies;
nothing you desire can compare with her.
She offers you long life in her right hand,
and riches and honor in her left.
She will guide you down delightful paths;
all her ways are satisfying.
Wisdom is a tree of life to those who embrace her;
happy are those who hold her tightly.” (Prov. 3:13-18 NLT)
Proverbs has many more choice things to say about wisdom, and we are even advised to: “Love wisdom like sister…” (Prov. 7:4 NLT)
Could it be that without the irritations, we would likely either never receive or never accept the “pearls of wisdom” that develop from the trials?
It’s an interesting thought.
Perhaps, however, the key question is this: As we endure the frightening circumstances that are thrown into our lives, will our reaction be like the majority of living creatures? Will we try to remove the irritant? Will we try to ignore it? Will we worry as we watch it fester and become infected? Or will our reaction to the irritant be like the oyster? Will we allow those bad circumstances to form into “pearls of wisdom”?
I recognize that no one would choose the kind of trouble that has been forced on our plates, even for the sake of gaining wisdom. I invite you to join us on Thursday for The Pearl, Part 2, to see what the Bible actually teaches about how these pearls are viewed and grown, and to what extent they should be valued.
In His love,
Lynona Gordon Chaffart, Speech-Language Pathologist, mother of two, Author — “Aboard God’s Train — A Journey With God Through the Valley of Cancer”, Author and Moderator for The Nugget, a tri-weekly internet newsletter, andScriptural Nuggets, a website devoted to Christian devotionals and inspirational poems, withAnswers2Prayer Ministries. Follow Lyn on Twitter @lynchaffart.
(To access the entire “The Pearl” mini-series, please click here.)