For the past two weeks, over and over again, God keeps hammering home to me the intense beauty and potential of our stories. Occupying close space with extended family during potent and difficult circumstances, hearing first hand how a little boy who never spoke words changed the lives of people to which I am now connected, having the privilege of standing close to 31 participants of The Experience, sitting in a airport for an extra five hours (added to the first five planned hours), sharing a row of seats on an airplane with a gentleman whose name I do not know, talking to my neighbor yesterday, listening to my son’s neighborhood friend talk about things they did as a family before his dad died, opening our basement space to ministry interns, savoring photos and words from my nephew as he returns to his homeland of Africa. The list grows as I sit here and marvel at the ways in which God is allowing me to witness His grace, His invitation to “come further up, come further in.” (C.S. Lewis, The Last Battle) Tears sting. Deep joy. I am humbled.
Who are we that He is mindful of us? And yet, God–the Almighty, the Creator, the real and true God–condescends that our stories can be shaped, polished, ground down, even, to become something of indescribable artistry and infinite worth.
Rounded and smooth pearls, the cultured variety that we see in fine jewelry stores everywhere, come about with a bit of human intervention. The naturally formed ones vary in shape, size, and color. (1) Interesting that, in either case, the final product is a result of a wound, such as when a foreign irritant or a parasite enters the mantle. The mollusk creates a sac to seal off the wound, and the creature forms a pearl as a part of the healing process. (2) This information brings a whole new meaning to “a pearl of great price.”
Peppered with irritants, wounds, and parasites, our own stories bear forth varied shapes and colors. Quirky pearls, we are. Rare, valuable, iridescent, dazzling, multi-layered, costly. As a part of the healing process of the wounds we know intimately, words of a transcendent story redefine us as singular fine pearls and then string us together into a collective strand of inestimable grace.
“Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a merchant looking for fine pearls. When he found the one of great value, he went away and sold everything he had and bought it.” Matthew 13:45-46