As a little girl, I was elated sometimes if I woke up with a little sore throat or stuffy nose and cough. Surely, that would mean that I would be staying home from school for a sick day. Please don’t misinterpret what I’m saying because I didn’t pretend to be sick when I wasn’t. However, I did relish a mild sickness or sore throat at times. Mom would make me a special breakfast, served on a TV tray as I nestled myself in the bed that Mom made on the sofa. A full day looming ahead…cough, sneeze, ouch! my throat hurt. What am I going to do in the hours that lay before me?
I had a big bag of stretchy loops of different colors that I would meticulously weave with a crochet hook onto a loom that would ultimately become potholders. Or, there was the bag of brightly colored jewel balls that I could thread ever so gently onto a string with a big plastic needle to make a beautiful necklace. I could do either of these crafts on a TV table while watching cartoons.
That day, my choice was to make the necklace, a white one that looks like Mom’s pearl necklace that she wore when she got dressed up. Very carefully I threaded the string onto the big plastic needle and I was very careful not to jab myself. Each delicate white round ball with a hole in it would be chosen from the bag of little balls, and diligently threaded onto the string; much like stringing popcorn for the Christmas Tree. This took time to do, because there were many distractions when a little girl is home for the day and sick. Special lunches of chicken noodle soup, Vicks Vapor Rub was rubbed onto my chest and throat and covered with a warm cloth, Grandma would call, and the TV alone was very distracting. Needless to say, when there is a focus on making a beautiful pearl necklace, one must be diligent despite interruptions.
A pearl necklace. So simple. John and I watched a movie about the life of Ruth Bader Ginsberg on Netflix last week, which was excellent. She wore a simple strand of pearls, much like in my Mother’s high school picture that is on my dresser, or the pearl necklace that John bought me as a wedding gift.
Do you know about pearls? I remember a children’s sermon that I read up on years ago. It taught me that pearls come from oysters. Oysters are shellfish that live in the ocean, and they have a protective shell that is around them. Occasionally, a piece of sand works its way into the oyster’s shell and causes a lot of pain and discomfort for the oyster. It’s much like if we get a pebble in our shoe when we are walking. It hurts our foot and causes discomfort until we take off our shoe and dump it out. It’s surprising how such a small little thing can cause so much pain!
Well, the oyster can’t open his shell and dump out the grain of sand. God has given something to the oyster to ease that pain and discomfort. The oyster oozes a liquid that goes right to the grain of sand and puts a coating all over it. That liquid eventually becomes hard. This process happens over and over again to that grain of sand, with many coats of the hardened material. After a while, the oyster has no more discomfort, but it created a beautiful pearl. Something that resulted from the oyster’s pain becomes a valuable and beautiful pearl.
God uses the same process within us. When there is pain, or a hard time, or a crippling disaster that comes into our lives, and if we ask him to, He will ooze out his love over us. He uses other people, things that we read and see to ooze onto that irritation and build a hard shell around it.
It takes time for this transformation to occur. For the oyster, it isn’t a ‘one and done’ situation. Once the oozing starts forming and layer upon layer covers over the grain of sand, it may be a season of time. That’s why pearls are so beautiful and valuable. There is pain involved for the oyster.
For us, it’s not a ‘one and done’ thing either. It’s small layers of love from others that form around that hurt and pain, grief, or fear. The original irritant is still there, but the coatings of love from God and others put a hard protective coating around us so that it doesn’t hurt quite as bad as time passes through seasons. We gradually become beautiful from that transformation experience.
Romans 12 tells us to “not be transformed by the patterns of this world, but by the renewing of our mind so that you can figure out what God will is – what is good and pleasing and mature.” How do we do that? What does it mean by not being transformed by the patterns of this world? Another may be a little clearer “Don’t copy the behavior and customs of this world, but be a new and different person with a fresh newness in all you do and think.” I think that this means that we become what we fill our minds with. If we fill our minds with God’s truth, we slowly are made into the person God designed us to be. It is possible to avoid worldly customs and still be of a proud, self-centered, selfish, stubborn, and arrogant nature. Only when our minds are open to the new attitude that Christ gave us are we transformed. If our character is like Christ’s, we can be sure that our behavior will honor God. Who are we hanging out with, and are their characters ones of goodness, honesty, integrity, and truthfulness?
Who are our children’s friends? What kind of influence are they receiving? As parents, it is our responsibility to know these things to monitor what goes into our child’s mind from friends, the internet, songs they listen to, and the programs they watch on TV. What games are they playing on their devices? Are they meeting people online, and who are these people? If we don’t, then our children may be negatively influenced by inappropriate behavior, and we wouldn’t even know! Proverbs 22:6 instructs us to “Bring up a child by teaching him the way he should go, and when he is old he will not turn away from it.”
It takes effort, discipline, and quietness to read God’s word often, and remember it, and try to apply it to daily activities and situations in our lives. Gradually, that will place a protective coating around our hearts and minds. Then will we emerge into the beautiful person that was God’s intent when he created you and me.
I once read a quote by Priscilla Shirer ‘We can’t shine on the outside unless God’s power is at work on the inside. No matter how much work we put into the outside, it will be worthless unless we are plugged into the true power source.”
Amid this pandemic, today I am wearing the pearl necklace that John gave me on our wedding day and my Mother’s pearl earrings. They are reminders to me, on this ordinary day, that I am still in the process of being refined, though hardships and pesky pebbles in my shoes. We all are still in the transformation process of becoming beautiful and valuable pearls that will eventually shine for others to see for the Glory of God.
Be Blessed to be a blessing to others,