One of our daily readings has aroused my interest in pearls, and I have found they present an eloquent allegory from nature.
Pearls are among the most valued of gems. Large, perfectly shaped pearls rank in value with the most precious stones. However, they are very different from other gems. Most gems are minerals that are mined from beneath the earth, but pearls are formed inside the shells of oysters. Mineral gems are hard and usually reflect light. However, pearls are rather soft, and ‘absorb’ as well as ‘reflect’ light.
Oysters and other shell-forming mollusks make a special substance called ‘nacre’ (pronounced NAY kur), that lines the insides of their shells. This smooth lining is called the nacreous layer, or pearly layer, and is often lustrous. It is formed by certain cells in the body of the animal. When a foreign substance, such as a grain of sand or a tiny parasite, enters the body of the mollusk, the nacre-forming cells begin to work. They cover the invading substance with thin sheets of nacre. They build successive circular layers of nacre until the foreign body is enclosed in the shell-like substance, forming the pearl.
Very valuable pearls come from certain species of oysters and other mollusks that live in tropical seas. When a slice of pearl is examined under a microscope, the layers can be seen. Because the layers are formed in a complete circle around the imposing substance, the cut pearl looks like a sliced onion. The layers are made up of little crystals of a mineral substance called aragonite. The tiny mineral crystals overlap and break up any light that falls on them into little rainbows of color. This gives pearls their iridescence.
God evidently considers pearls of great value, too. Jesus likened the Kingdom of Heaven to “a merchant seeking goodly pearls and, having found one pearl of great price, He went and sold all that he had, and bought it.” (Matt. 13:45, 46)
I suppose there is more than one application of this allegory, but I think the following poem presents the truth beautifully in the personal application:-
A tiny grain of sand came in
my life to stay
I had no power to push it out -
there was no way.
And when I struggled with the smart
that sand did bring,
It grew to be yet more and more
a hurting thing.
Then one day Someone came to pour
upon that place
The wondrous Heaven-pure substance
of His grace.
I looked to see the thing removed,
but lo, it stayed;
Instead – exquisite miracle -
a pearl was made!
(Opal Leonore Gibbs)
There are ways in which God’s children may be likened to the pearl. As with Paul the Apostle, the “thorn” is not always removed, but rather becomes the basis for the application of layer upon layer of God’s grace and patience that produces in us an inner beauty that softens our hearts and enables us to both ‘absorb and reflect’ the Spirit of Him Who is the Light.
“Now the God of all HOPE fill you with all JOY and PEACE in the believing, that you may abound in HOPE, through the power of the Holy Spirit.” (Romans 15:13)
In Agape, Eulene