"Those who dive into the sea of affliction, bring up rare pearls." -Charles H. Spurgeon
For my 35th birthday, my husband gave me a set of Tiffany pearl stud earrings. Oh it was a joyous and glorious moment to see that beautiful, Tiffany Blue box, knowing that something exquisite would be inside. I opened it to find those beautiful earrings. Pearls are classic and lovely. I felt so special, lovely, grown up. It was almost as if I "had arrived," as a sophisticated and mature woman.
Isn’t is amazing that something that is considered beautiful, classic, a jewel, glamorous, and timeless is created from a parasite? Oysters create pearls when a parasite enters into their flesh, and they can spend years focusing on this parasite so it doesn’t harm them. The bigger the pearl, the longer the parasite had been with the oyster. Pearls of different colors come from different types of parasites and the different waters the oysters live in.
Life gives us parasites as well. It is what we do with those parasites that determine whether we will receive a pearl, or be harmed.
I have spent a large chunk of my life focusing on what other people thought of me. I have spent a large chunk of my life focusing on what other people have done to me, whether intentional or not. I have spent a large chunk of my life focusing on all the things that weren't right, perfect, correct, or proper. Most of the time I thought I was way too much of so many things and severely lacking in other areas, which is why all the things that happened in my life took place. The thinking and questions always came back to the question that haunted me, "What is wrong with me?"
I am too bold. I care too much. I ask too many questions. I work too hard. I am way too sensitive. I'm not ever skinny enough, pretty enough, nice enough, or smart enough to be included in the popular crowds, let alone have a few good friends. It is a horrible feat to attempt to balance the things that I am “too much” of with the things that I “am not enough of.” I fail miserably almost every day.
It hasn’t been until my 30’s that I have come to this place of acknowledging and embracing who I truly am, and being okay with me, even if you aren’t. I’ve had to process through many parasites in my life that have been a part of my lineage for a long a time. Maybe you can relate to some of these:
Trying to fit in
Death of loved ones
Trying to be someone I'm not
We've all had lots of parasites in our life. Maybe your list looks like mine. Maybe its shorter. Maybe it's much longer. But, no matter what is on our list, it is a painful process to realize that there have been things that have harmed our souls.
It takes the prying open of our hearts, digging into the flesh of our souls, and ripping out the rock like substance that was laying underneath. We gasp as the burden is torn away from us; not sure if we are going to live without it, because it seems it has always been there. We yelp in pain as it is exposed for all to see. But something truly marvelous happens as that rock like thing is refined, polished, and smoothed out.
It becomes beautiful. It shines. It gleams with a certain color and glistens in only the way a pearl can. It becomes something others recognize as beauty within you, and that beautiful trademark wouldn't have happened without the parasite. It is something that only God can do.
Isaiah 61: 7 -
"Instead of your shame
you will receive a double portion,
and instead of disgrace
you will rejoice in your inheritance.
And so you will inherit a double portion in your land
and everlasting joy will be yours."
These promises were made to the Israelites after they had returned from captivity in Babylon. Sometimes; many times, the parasites that we have endured through out our lives have led us too, keep us in, and don't want to let us leave, captivity.
As I have been processing through my own parasites in my life, I have a desire to share my story. Not because I have it all together (I totally don't) or because I think my story is that good (It really isn't). But, there is beauty is being honest (and for those that know me, honesty is one of my trademarks). There is an exquisite hope that comes when someone shares their story and one can relate to it. It may be different circumstances or events but knowing someone can relate to your pain, your joy, your anguish, your hope, your confusion, your guilt, your anger, your excitement, your fears; that connection gives us freedom and the parasites less power. It is in realizing that we, in fact, are not alone. Some people have gone through similar things. Some people haven't gone through things as intense and horrific as others. But we are all trying to figure out this journey called life. We all have joyous moments. Scary moments. Sad moments. Exciting moments. Angry moments. Confused moments. And when we realize that others think like us, feel like us, dream like us, maybe we will be a little more accepting of others, and maybe more importantly: more accepting and loving of ourselves. Not in a narcissistic way (there's way too much of that going on in the world); but in a "I am learning to embrace who God says I am and therefore embrace others because God loves them too," kind of way.
It is my hope my string of pearls that have come from the afflictions in my life bring beauty, grace, charm, and a little bit of hope to those that hear it.