Ages ago, when we still lived in South Asia, Lowell stole one of my pearls from a pearl necklace I had. He took it out into the city and he deliberately “lost” it. As momentarily annoying as that was, Lowell wanted us to always be on the look out for a pearl in what often felt like a dark and oppressive town. Somewhere in the crowds of people, in the open sewers, on the polluted banks of the Ganges river, in the monsoon muds…somewhere there was a hidden a pearl. The hunt for it gave us a sense of anticipation and expectation. The pearl was out there! Would we find it?
Jesus told this tiny little story to his followers: God’s kingdom is like a jewel merchant on the hunt for excellent pearls. Finding one that is flawless, he immediately sells everything and buys it.
I’ve been thinking about that jewel merchant these days. I’ve been thinking about the search for something more. I’ve been keeping my eyes open for that ‘excellent pearl’.
I recently returned from a trip to Thailand. A group of expats, that normally live scattered across South Asia, had gathered at a resort on the edge of the ocean for a retreat. I was one of four invited in to offer soul care to those who might sign up. Over the course of 5 days I met with 21 people –some of the conversations were more intense than others. A few were reunions with old friends and were held over iced lattes looking over the ocean and the palm trees and the beach. But all of it….all week long….all of it felt so incredibly purposeful.
To be honest, it’s been hard to come home from that meaning drenched week and the joys of international air travel to laundry and lunch making. I’ve felt my sense of self being swallowed again by the mundane, by the endless question of who I am and what am I doing here. I’ve wondered again at my purpose.
I know my life has meaning here. I firmly believe we are here on purpose. I just need to find it again.…I need to uncover it. Sometimes it seems to be more hidden for me than for others. And often it seems illusive. Just when I stop looking and settle into my routines I find it in between spiritual direction clients or under a pile of clean clothes. The moment, however, I go to grab it always seems to disappear.
Before we left Asia in 2007 my dear friend and I went down to our favourite silver smith shop, Sunita Jewelers. There in a shop the size of a small walk-in closet we chose matching silver rings. Set into each simple band was a stunning creamy white pearl. It symbolized to us both that we live our lives in deference to the Pearl of Great Price. Our friendship was important to us. Raising our children together was something we treasured. Doing life and meaningful work together was of value to both of us. But Jesus seemed to be leading Lowell and I away from that…and my friend and I needed to remember that the Flawless one, the Pearl of Great Price, was worth whatever sacrifice he was asking us to make. We needed to be like the jewel merchant…we needed to do whatever it took to follow that Pearl!
Last October the pearl fell out of my ring. I noticed it at supper time on a Thursday evening. I was devastated. Errands and cleaning the house had taken me all over the town that day and all over the house. How would I ever find it? I was so sad and so disappointed. Suddenly I ached for my friend, for our old town, for my former life, for all that was. That ring, a generous gift from a precious friend, had been a companion in my adjustments to life in the US. It had served as marker of God’s faithfulness, a token reminder that he is near. I had worn that ring for over 8 years!
And although we searched fervently we never found it.
That pearl is still here somewhere. Probably it’s rolled under a piece of furniture. Perhaps it’s tucked under a cushion. Maybe I lost it in the grocery story. Maybe it’s at the post office. I’m still looking. When I vacuum the front room or sweep the kitchen, I find myself still searching, under and around and behind things. The metaphor isn’t lost on me–especially during these reentering, resettling days. I think I may have been looking for the wrong things –my purpose, my calling, my sense of significance and belonging–surely Jesus’ tiny story taught me to search out the most important thing. I’m joining the jewel merchant. I’m looking for the Excellent Pearl, the Flawless One, the Pearl of Great Price. He is here and I know the hunt for Him will never disappoint.