Do you know how a pearl is formed? What a powerful metaphor for you and me to meditate on today! I sense the Holy Spirit on its imagery, drawing our attention to a new aspect of it.
It all begins with a grain of sand getting inside of a clam, causing irritation. To protect its tender inner tissue, the clam emits a substance that forms a soothing layer around the irritant. It keeps on adding layers of this substance until, in the end, a pearl is created. Grit becomes beauty. Irritation becomes loveliness.
What I sense the Holy Spirit specifically highlighting about this is the concept of layers. He works inside of us in a way that follows a similar pattern to the one we see in the clam. You see, His plan for bringing forth beauty in our lives never takes place quickly. It’s not “one and done.” Instead, when an irritant is introduced into our daily routines, oftentimes a prolonged process begins.
This may take the shape of a new coworker who is hard to be around. It may be a relative or family member with a bunch of rough edges. It could be unpleasant work responsibilities or any number of difficult circumstances. Each one of them is like that grating grain of sand, rubbing us the wrong way.
It is our choice how we respond. As the old saying goes, we can get “bitter or better.” We can choose to stew and fuss and live our lives in a frustrated state. Or, we can allow the Holy Spirit to begin to add layers of beauty inside of us. If we will yield to His working, over time, He will produce something exquisite in us: character that resembles our Savior’s.
Over a prolonged period, this requires choosing His inner working over and over and over again. It takes allowing Him to put us to death with Jesus each time we feel that irritant rubbing up against us: “I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me” (Gal. 2:20, ESV). Instead of stewing and fussing, we cast our cares on Him. We ask Him to purify us in each specific moment of struggle. As we do so, layer upon layer, Holy Spirit is producing the beauty of Jesus Himself inside us.
Remember, every breathtaking pearl that we enjoy today came into existence through discomfort. Do not be discouraged when something grating against your emotions is not quickly relieved. The Holy Spirit is doing something exceedingly important through it. When He is done, you will be absolutely amazed at what He has developed in you.
Your whole life is worth giving for what He will do in the depths of your heart if you let Him. “Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a merchant in search of fine pearls, who, on finding one pearl of great value, went and sold all that he had and bought it” (Matt. 13:45-46, ESV). The exquisiteness of what He brings forth is far greater than any physical beauty you could find on the earth.
One more thought on this. Can you imagine what it would look like if the irritated clam only bothered with producing one layer around the grain of sand? Would anybody pay anything for such a product? Of course not. Beauty only comes into its fullness when the whole work of perseverance is complete. This surrender to God’s process takes a whole lot of persevering. God will strengthen you for it, every single time you need it. Just ask.
Also, on the days you feel worn out, remember to look up. There is a cloud of witnesses surrounding you, cheering you on. On the very front row is Jesus, rejoicing in you and your faithfulness, yelling louder than them all in celebration of you. Fix your eyes on Him, my friend, and never, ever give up!
Why do you think God designs His process of character development to take as long as it does in our lives?