I had an incredibly revelatory moment this weekend while sitting at my cousin’s table. She was telling me the story about her pearl ring, a priceless treasure she had gone to great lengths to secure.
When she was young and not very financially stable, she got a job working with a jeweler. She wanted to give our Grandmother, who had raised her, a special gift. So she had a unique pearl ring made for her, and spent many months paying the debt with her earnings. Grandmother loved the ring, and for many years, wore it proudly. But in time, the ring was hidden in a safe place, reserved as a piece of inheritance for someone in the family.
The problem was that the someone it was reserved for wasn’t my cousin, who had given Grandma the ring in the first place. With aging and increasing health issues, it seemed Grandma had forgotten who gave her the gift. So someone else’s name was on the package that held the ring. When it came time to write out the list of inheritance treasures, my cousin saw that her prized treasure was to be given to someone who might never be able to appreciate its worth. It had been lost to her.
So she began to argue her right to regain possession of it. After many conversations and arguments, Grandma finally yielded, crossed off the other name, and agreed to return the ring to its original designer. She still didn’t remember that my cousin was the one who had made it for and given it to her, but my cousin had won her treasure back, and that was, in the end, what mattered the most to her.
After Grandma passed this year and my cousin received the ring, she wore it proudly as a beautiful reminder of their relationship. Then one day, she looked down to discover that the pearl was missing! She had lost it somewhere, and her heart sank. It was a reminder of what she had truly lost. More than a pearl, she had lost the treasure of a relationship and a person that could never be replaced.
Not being able to bear the thought of leaving the ring empty, she determined to find another pearl. At least symbolically, the memory of the treasure she had in our Grandmother would live on.
She took a trip to San Francisco and, while there, walked into a store which had a bowl full of oyster shells that customers could pick up, open and purchase the pearl they found inside. There were pearls of many colors and sizes inside those oyster shells, and so she dug in, hoping for just the right one to replace the treasure missing from Grandma’s ring. With the help of her fiance, she dug to the bottom of the dish and pulled out a shell, and when she opened it, there sat the most stunningly perfect match to the pearl that had been lost! She purchased it on the spot, and also bought an encasement for it, to ensure that it wouldn’t be lost before she could have it reset into her ring. Her heart felt complete at the thought of securing the treasure she had been searching for.
As we sat at her table, she handed me the pearl, and we admired it together. If it had been any other pearl, found any other way, it would have just been a pretty jewel. But the loss and the search had made it all the more precious. I shared in her joy and celebrated that beautiful gift with her. It had been a tumultuous journey, but if I had asked her, I know she would have said it was well worth it all. For the pearl holder, all the time, energy, emotion and expense – all the cost of that treasure – was not sacrifice or loss, but investment.
Then I thought about a story in the Bible, about another pearl. In Matthew 13:45-46, there is a tiny but powerful portrait of God’s love for us, and of our value to Him. Scripture says, in the Passion Translation:
“Heaven’s kingdom realm is also like a jewel merchant in search of rare pearls. When he discovered one very precious and exquisite pearl, he immediately gave up all he had in exchange for it.”
Some have interpreted this parable to mean that we should give up all we have to gain Jesus. The premise behind that interpretation is true – we are called to leave all and follow Him, according to other Scriptural passages.
But that is not the context given for this particular parable. Taken within its context and studied out, it becomes apparent that we are the hidden pearl, the lost treasure hidden in the middle of the field that represents the whole world. We don’t “find Jesus,” rather He finds us. We don’t buy anything, but rather have been bought at the highest price ever paid for a soul – Jesus gave all He had and all He was in order to gain us for His own treasure, because of the Father’s great love for us. We are priceless in His eyes, and He went to the greatest lengths and heights and depths and widths – sparing no expense – in order to regain the privilege of relationship with us. We mean that much to Him.
Stepping into a season like the one we’re in – celebrating the birth of our Savior – can come with a lot of heavy emotions. And when celebration feels like it must include a dutiful kind of sacrificial worship – giving up all we have to thank God for what we’ve been given – the gift can sometimes become more like a burden.
But when we come into it realizing that Christmas is not so much about the demand for us to empty ourselves and our pocketbooks in gratitude for the gift of a Savior, the perspective changes. The cloudy skies part to reveal a shining star which illuminates something in our hearts that He has been trying to get us to see all along. Christmas is about remembering that He came because you are I were worth it. He gave up everything so we could be found. He came searching for us, so that we could remember we are not forgotten treasures in the middle of a messy world. We mean everything to Him. And our celebrations are not just archaic tokens of tradition that have lost their lustre in the hustle and bustle of the noise all around us. They are real invitations to be refreshed in the revelation of God’s incredible love for us. They are tables set for celebrating the reality that we have been sought after and found, and we are treasured by the King of all the Earth.
When I see myself through this frame, I am inspired to see others the same way. I am inspired to see treasure and value in the people around me, and they become worth the time and energy and expense it takes to love them in such a way that they, too, can remember they are worth any investment to be with. I want to shower them with the same love that I have received. I want to pour myself and all I have out in order that they might see and know that God loves them the same way He loves me.
This is the heart of the parable of the pearl of great price. It is a powerful reminder, especially at this time of year, that we are not forgotten. That celebrating is worth the effort, because we have been found and redeemed, and because others need to know the same is being done for them.
Dear Woman of Breakthrough, do you have the pearl holder’s perspective this season? Are you counting the energy, emotion and expense of celebrating the birth of Christ as limitations and sacrifice, or are you counting it as investment toward securing the greatest treasure: that those around you might be reminded that they are worth everything to God? Are you working from the place of burden, or redemption? Are you buying gifts and making preparations out of duty and obligation, or in celebration of the reality that you have been sought, secured, and are highly treasured?
How I pray that we would conduct ourselves this Christmas season as pearls of great price – as priceless treasures that have been excavated from the field of a world that does not recognize its value or its purpose. We have the great privilege of coming to the table set by the God Who sees us, and Who loves being with us. And we have the ability to grasp the pearl holder’s perspective and invite others to join us.
We have such a reason to rejoice! Even with the realities of the pain of difficulties and losses in our earthly journey, what we have gained in being found and in treasured makes this a moment and a season worth stepping into with all of our hearts. Praying that you will accept the invitation to worship with the pearl holder’s perspective this holiday season!