Pearls are said to symbolize the purity, generosity, integrity, and loyalty of those who wear them. I know that when I see a woman draped in pearls, I think of class, dignity and distinction. My church has an annual Tea specifically for women and young girls, and usually woven into the theme is a request for women to wear their fancy pearls. So, I have pearls for my daughter and myself (necklace, bracelets and earrings) safely tucked away, usually reserved for this event.
Sometimes I can be quite dramatic and theatrical so when my daughter and I put on our pearls we are like two different people – LOL. Oh Yes!!! We walk and we talk just a little bit differently. There’s an overwhelming sense of “eliteness” that comes over us (or maybe that’s just me being dramatic again…).
But, what is it that’s so intriguing about the origin of pearls and what does it show us about our trials and afflictions as believers in Christ? You see, up until now I never really considered how we get those beautiful pearls. Yes, I knew they come from oysters, but I never thought about it beyond that point. It kind of reminds me of how we see the people around us – those who seem to be well put together. Do we really think that they were born and raised into adulthood – transitioning from infancy to childhood to teenagers to adults with no grit in between? I mean, that would be pretty awesome, but we all know that is not the case.
Pearls are formed in this was: for a natural pearl, life begins inside of an oyster’s shell when it is intruded by something like a grain of sand or “grit” that slips in between one of the two shells of the oyster, a type of mollusks, and the protective layer that covers the mollusk’s organs, called a mantle. As a means of protection from irritation, the oyster quickly begins covering the “grit” that intruded with layers of nacre – a mineral substance that fashions the mollusk’s shells. Layers of nacre (also known as mother-of-pearl) coat the grain of sand or “grit” until the dazzling gem is formed.
So here it is (how I relate it to my faith):
- Oyster’s Shell – Life
- Grit – trials, tribulations, unfavorable circumstances, financial ruin, mistakes, more mistakes, sin, hurt, abuse, heartache, grief, immorality, addiction, divorce, death, abandonment, fear, depression, hopelessness, struggle, anxiety, more sin, failure, illness, affliction, bitterness, anger, lack of self-control, negative thoughts, loss, whatever tries to break us, etc…
- Layers of nacre – God’s Grace
- Pearl – God’s Glory
And I believe we are a lot like pearls! Just as the grit in the oyster is necessary for the pearl in the shell, so is the affliction necessary to reveal or to strengthen our faith in God. When I was reading about pearls this stood out, “A pearl begins with a humble piece of grit – an annoying irritant…” I have no clue of what your afflictions are or what they may have been in the past, but if they were anything like mine I bet that you can relate to the humbling process that comes along with the suffering. And as irritating as afflictions can be in life, they keep us humble, snapping us back into reality and bringing us to the point where we have to acknowledge that we need something more than we have within ourselves – to protect us, to cover us and to transform us into strong and impactful servants of Christ.
In all this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while you may have had to suffer grief in all kinds of trials. These have come so that the proven genuineness of your faith – of greater worth than gold, which perishes even though refined by fire – may result in praise, glory and honor when Jesus Christ is revealed. 1 Peter 1:6-7 (NIV)
We need the grit; it’s absolutely necessary. But we also desperately need the nacre – or God’s grace, and I’m so grateful that we have it. What would we do without it? His grace is redemptive, and he makes it available on behalf of sinners, who actually do not deserve it. His grace covers us in our times of affliction – our times of weakness – so that we are not overcome by them, but he gives us the strength to overcome them.
“But he said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.’ Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me.” 2 Corinthians 12:9
And just as it took me reading about the making of pearls to realize the true beauty and value in them, so is it also true that we must take it upon ourselves to reach out in ministry to others – sharing with them the Word, the love and the compassion of Christ, that we may help others to discover their beauty, value and purpose in Christ.
Remember this: No grit – No pearl. The grit has to invade our lives in order for God to get the glory. If we never struggle… If we never face heartache… If we never suffer a loss… If we never feel empty or lost… then what reason do we have to lean on God? What reason do we have to place all of our trust in him? How does he get the glory? How do those around us come to know him. How do we reach the unsaved? The Grit is necessary!
Do not be ashamed of the grit. Do not wallow in the sorrows of your suffering. Do not feel useless or incapable of being who God needs you to be simply because the grit of life is getting the best of you right now.
Take an irritant and transform it into something beautiful, just like an oyster takes an irritating grain of sand and makes it into a pearl. Whatever life is throwing at you right now, give God the glory! With his covering of grace, just like the grit is covered with the nacre, you are made strong, resilient and iridescent!