My favorite earrings are solitary pearls that my husband bought me years ago in Hawaii. I’m not one who matches my earrings to my clothes every day…I don’t have the patience. I wear my pearls 99% of the time. They are simple and beautiful…every day.
Pearls are formed when a grain of sand or other intrusive element is introduced into the soft tissue (known as the mantle) of a living shelled mollusk. When speaking of gem quality pearls, this is an oyster. To protect itself from the foreign body, the oyster wraps it in nacre, a substance that seals the intruder and keeps it from harming the oyster. The pearls that we wear take up to three years to form. Knowing this makes my little earrings even more precious to me.
During a particularly rough season in my life I was acutely aware of how constantly irritated and unhappy I was. At that moment the picture of a pearl came to mind. I thought of how many foreign bodies – disappointments, hurt, unforgiveness, etc. – had wounded my heart over the years. I know, too, that much of what is good in me came out of seasons of brokenness, unhappiness or helplessness that, over time, God used to make something beautiful…as I let him. Through forgiveness I learned grace, by learning to wait I learned patience, releasing bitterness taught me kindness….and on it goes.
Too many times, tho, I had blanketed the irritation with bitterness or unforgiveness. This does not create anything of beauty. Rather it remains a place of pain and irritation that festers and robs me of life. The difference is not whether there are ‘foreign objects’ that get planted in our hearts and minds, but rather how we deal with them. The nacre that the oyster uses to seal the foreign object is a substance natural to the oyster, made of the same stuff as the oyster’s shell. We are created in the image of God and thus have access to what we need in order to deal with whatever comes into our lives. This is not just about digging deep and coming up with the fortitude to bear it (tho we do have to choose to contend for wholeness). I believe it is most about offering these broken places to God. Release the pain and brokenness and choose to live free. God made me and he has a plan for my life. He made you and he has a plan for your life. He alone can shape pearls out of the pain. Right now is the very best time to invite him into your broken places. Begin today to allow him to make something beautiful out of the difficult places in your heart and life. He really is that loving, that kind, that powerful. It’s worth letting go of the pain.
Budd and I had some very difficult years in our marriage. It was not about abuse or infidelity, it was about two clueless, broken people attempting one of the most difficult relationship journeys there is. Probably the hardest thing to overcome was ….wait for it….he was a man. I’m not. We came from very different family backgrounds. Expectations for the future and pain from the past joined together to trip us up at every turn. My insecurities and lack of trust made it almost impossible for Budd to do anything right or ‘safe’ for me. His typical American family caused him to believe/assume that a wife stayed home, cleaned, cook, made iced tea every day and greeted him with delight when he arrived home. My single mother had worked 2 jobs and we all pitched in to survive…literally. Budd’s expectations felt like demands to me. Budd’s love for me felt like a demand. My independence felt like rejection to Budd. Seriously, people, what’s a couple to do?
We sought out a marriage therapist who was able to translate our incompatible languages and offer us the tools we so desperately needed in order to build a marriage and a family. It was not easy. It was painful. But Budd and I began to coat the irritation and pain with God’s grace, peace and wisdom. Things began to change…slowly. To be honest there were still very difficult days at first but we also began to see small wins like more peace and laughter in our home. Personally, I began to notice that I had been consumed with how difficult my marriage was; that had become my main focus. As we started leaning into grace, forgiveness and acceptance, the focus for my life was no longer Budd but God. The slow but steady leaning into Jesus began to change us. The issues (sand) in our marriage did not immediately change, we just began to cover them in grace and acceptance. That made all the difference. When Budd passed away a few years ago, I felt such deep gratitude for the years God had restored to us in our marriage. There was something very comforting about grieving because it showed me that I had grown to love Budd.
There is no way you can get through life without pain and suffering…it’s the state of our planet and its people. God has given us the freedom to choose what we will do with the pain that comes to us; you can let it destroy or break you, or you can allow his grace to make it something of beauty and value in the world.
You see, its bigger than just you and I feeling better; its about what God can do on the earth because we said yes to him. I was a very lazy and slow oyster, but God is so incredibly patient and kind. And, beyond all human reason, he is absolutely crazy about you (and me). I will close with the lyrics to a favorite old song of mine:
Something beautiful, something good,
All my confusion He understood.
All I had to offer Him was broken and strife,
But He made something beautiful out of my life.*
This is my story. He has made something beautiful (not perfect!) out of my life.
*Something Beautiful by Bill Gaither, 1971
Ephesians 2:4-10 NLT
But God is so rich in mercy, and he loved us so much, 5 that even though we were dead because of our sins, he gave us life when he raised Christ from the dead. (It is only by God’s grace that you have been saved!) 6 For he raised us from the dead along with Christ and seated us with him in the heavenly realms because we are united with Christ Jesus. 7 So God can point to us in all future ages as examples of the incredible wealth of his grace and kindness toward us, as shown in all he has done for us who are united with Christ Jesus. 8 God saved you by his grace when you believed. And you can’t take credit for this; it is a gift from God. 9 Salvation is not a reward for the good things we have done, so none of us can boast about it. 10 For we are God’s masterpiece. He has created us anew in Christ Jesus, so we can do the good things he planned for us long ago.
God’s perfection and humankind’s total imperfection created a scenario that was unsolvable from our side. God, who is ultimate grace, chose to make a way. But the cross is not glorious. It was the worst possible death with unimaginable pain, rejection and shame. How then could it change everything? Because God wrapped that terrible act in His grace. What appeared on the surface to be the very worst thing became the greatest moment in human history – God’s grace overcame sin and death and invited us into life with Him. It changes everything. There is no pearl so beautiful or priceless. There is no other way for you and I to be and to become all we were created for, except through the grace offered in Jesus.
Jeremiah 29:11 NLT For I know the plans I have for you,” says the Lord. “They are plans for good and not for disaster, to give you a future and a hope.”