Pearls of Grace

Owning pearls has been a luxury for centuries. They are beauties from the ocean that hold great sentiment. There are many imitations, but a real pearl will hold its value for years and years. In fact, pearls are heirlooms passed down through many generations. Appreciation of these natural gems began more than 5,000 years ago—long before the discovery of diamonds. In ancient times, people believed pearls were a gift from the heavens—the tears of angels. If the wearer was a new bride, the pearls she wore were believed to bring marital bliss.

My mother gave me a long strand of pearls that I had designed and made into three smaller, modern strands. I saved two of the strands for several years to give to my future daughters-in- law to wear on their wedding day. Seeing them wear the pearls on their special day was incredibly amazing. The third strand was made for me, to remind me of my mother and my two son’s weddings. Now my daughters-in-law and I are keeping our memorable strands of pearls to pass down to their daughters. I hope my three precious granddaughters will wear them someday and think of me and their great grandmother.

Looking at and touching priceless pearls causes me to reflect on the beauty and grace of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. Matthew 13:45-46 says, “The kingdom of God is like unto a merchant man, seeking goodly pearls: Who, when he had found one pearl of great price, went and sold all that he had, and bought it” (KJV). Jesus is truly our “Pearl of great price.” He paid the greatest price for us on Calvary when He died for our sins and gave us eternal life. He has surrounded us with amazing grace to overcome our failures. Just like a speck of sand inside the oyster’s shell, we are coated with His grace to become a beautiful pearl like Him.

How a pearl is made:

A grain of sand or even a parasite will somehow get inside the shell of the oyster. It then lodges itself into the folds of the flesh. The disturbed oyster will do all it can to rid itself of the irritant, but usually to no avail. Exasperated and annoyed by constant failure, the frustrated oyster begins to secrete a calcium-like milky substance called, nacre, which thoroughly coats the irritating intruder. This either smooths the rough edges of a sand grain or kills the parasite. Hundreds of layers of nacre are secreted, until something rare, precious, and beautiful is formed—a pearl! It usually takes three or more years for an oyster to produce a pearl large enough to be valuable. While this process is taking place, the inner lining of the shell is also coated with the nacre and this is called mother of pearl. These oysters are not for human consumption. The edible oyster has a chalky inner lining and doesn’t have the pretty mother of pearl lining. Pearls are found in many colors, but the most valuable are white. A good pearl has a delicate luster. The layering of nacre is translucent and allows light to pass through, which creates the luster and gives the faint rainbow color called iridescence.

Since receiving Jesus, the Pearl of great price into my heart, I desire to allow His character to be formed in me. Galatians 4:19 says, “Christ be formed in you” (KJV). The word formed means “the necessity of a change in character and conduct.” We are followers of Jesus and are being “formed” into the likeness of the great Pearl. We must be totally formed before we can have that iridescent luster and gem-like quality. How can this happen? The old ugly sin nature (our shell) must be coated with “Holy Spirit nacre.” It’s a lot like God’s grace—layer upon layer of beautiful grace. John 1:16 says, “From His fullness we have all received grace upon grace” (KJV). His wondrous grace covers us over and over until we are formed in Him.

All our perplexities, trials, and hardships are like the grain of sand or parasite that irritate and frustrate us. And just like the oyster, we struggle to rid ourselves of issues or change situations, often to no avail. Just as the oyster in deep frustration with his problem begins to secrete nacre, when we find ourselves at the end of our rope and tired from the problems of life, we lean on and trust in the Lord. As we do this, He releases Holy Spirit nacre to coat our lives with His grace until He is formed in us. I love the old song, “Amazing Grace.” It says, “Amazing grace, how sweet the sound that saved a wretch like me.” That is truly amazing!

Oysters are gathered by dragnets or by pearl divers, who often must descend to great depths. Of the thousands of oysters gathered, only a small number bear pearls and an even smaller number bear pearls of gem-quality. The nacereous shell of the pearl oyster is valuable for its mother of pearl.

We are valuable because of our salvation and the price Jesus paid for us. We are like the oyster shell that is coated with His beautiful mother of pearl presence. It surrounds us. It’s His gift to us! The luster that is iridescent inside the shell of the oyster gives the pearl its iridescent glow. Understanding this process causes us to want more of Jesus, His character, and His nature to be formed in us like a pearl. We want our lives to be like a gem-quality pearl that has an iridescent glow! And, the only way that can happen is to have adversity and pressure. The grain of sand or parasite that invades the oyster seems to have no value and is only an irritant. But, the struggle produces a substance of great value! Second Corinthians 4:17 says, “Our light affliction, which is but for a moment, worketh for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory.” (KJV)

So, it is with us. Our affliction is working for us, not against us. Something beautiful and something good is being formed in us. It is hard to comprehend when something annoying and ugly is afflicting us. We can sometimes feel like we are in a dark black shell, like the oyster wrestling and hurting. It feels as though no one knows, cares, or understands the pain or sorrows we endure. Yet, in the dark times of secrets and tears, God sees us and lovingly layers grace upon grace inside our shell. As trust is developed and faith ignites, an iridescent glow begins to take place, and the glory of God shines in our lives. Grace is producing a lovely gem-quality pearl inside of us. That’s amazing!

 

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