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A Pearl of Wisdom

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  • A Pearl of Wisdom

    As most people know, pearls, unlike most precious gems formed by geological forces, are the result of a biological process that occurs within various mollusks, including the oyster. Different species of mollusks produce pearls in a wide variety of shapes and colors, varying in beauty and value. A perfectly round pearl with just the right size, color, texture and iridescence is very rare, making such specimens highly prized and valuable.

    Whether pearls are produced naturally in the wild or meticulously cultivated, they are all formed by the same basic process. And that process presents a life lesson with a spiritual application that we can benefit from. Shelled mollusks like the oyster constantly open and close their shells as they filter the water around them to extract nutrients. Occasionally, during this process, a tiny particle of some type, such as a gritty speck or even a parasite, enters the shell and becomes lodged between the oyster's inner shell and its soft delicate tissue, called the mantle.

    In response to this irritant, the mantle secretes a substance called nacre, (which also produces the same calcium carbonate-based material the mollusk's shell is made of). These secretions coat the particle, surrounding it with a sac that shields the mollusk's sensitive tissues from it. Over time, layer upon layer is added, until eventually, what we know as the pearl, is formed.

    So then, where's the spiritual lesson in that? Well, if we look at it in the most fundamental sense, a pearl is the result of dealing with adversity in a graceful manner--a thing of beauty, produced in the course of contending with an irritant. In a similar manner, when we face some unpleasant person or thing in our lives, we can cope with it in a gentle manner that demonstrates the mind and attitude of Christ--which in turn, reflects well both on our Lord and our profession of faith.

    It's easy (and often very tempting) to respond to disrespect, unkindness, or similar behavior in like kind. Or perhaps we find ourselves overwhelmed or frustrated by a situation and then audibly or physically react to the circumstances in a fleshly rather than spiritual manner. None of us are immune from allowing a person or situation to "get under our skin" to the point of reacting with anger or frustration, because we're fallible human beings.

    Yet, when we do so, we do a disservice to both the Lord and our profession of faith. Instead of being reactionary, we can, like the oyster, attempt to cultivate a spiritual pearl. We can put a buffer between us and our fleshly feelings by coating the irritant with spiritual nacre, refusing to let it stress us out. A smile and a gentle response can often do amazing things.

    We can do this in our daily walk, and deal with the adversity and unpleasantness that intrudes into our lives in a refined, graceful manner, which is not only restrained and non-confrontational, but can produce something beautiful, admirable and of lasting value: a good testimony befitting a child of God. Exemplary acts of genuine patience, kindness and compassion demonstrated in our day to day attitudes and personal interactions are often a more effective witness to non-believers around us than any amount of verbal professions of faith could ever be. Such a form of witness is truly a pearl of great price.

    A gentle answer turns away wrath.
    (Proverbs 15:1)

    Do not be overcome by evil, but rather overcome evil with good. (Romans 12:21)
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