My parents gave me the only strand of pearls I have ever owned.
I only break them out for special occasions.

Most cultured pearls are made by inserting a nucleus ( usually a tiny piece of clam shell), along with some living tissue from another oyster into an unsuspecting oyster. To deal with these invaders, the tissue makes a sac around the nucleus and the oyster covers it with a thin coat iridescent coating called nacre.
It takes about six months.
Longer for bigger pearls.
But essentially they are coated tissue sacs.

A natural pearl starts with an irritant just like the cultured ones.
But instead of a tissue sac, it is layer after layer after layer of shiny coating.
Underneath is more shiny pearl.
A 3mm pearl takes 5 years to form.
Larger ones can take up to 20 years.

Layers take time.
And add value.
And are incredibly rare.

I’m sure my parents spend more than I could afford on these pearls. Maybe even a few hundred dollars. And other than my engagement ring, it is one of the nicest pieces of jewelry I own. But natural pearls would have run them hundreds of thousands of dollars.

And the only difference between hundreds of dollars and hundreds of thousands of dollars.
Is what is underneath.
Layers or empty tissue.

Multiple times the bible refers to the kingdom of heaven as a fine pearl. One of great value.

“Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a merchant looking for fine pearls. When he found one of great value, he went away and sold everything he had and bought it. Matthew: 13:45-46

And I am thinking it is pretty safe to assume that this merchant could tell the difference.
And knew that he had stumbled across something valuable and rare and worth selling everything for.
Rich layers that I can not even grasp.

My faith has always seemed to have a lot of layers.
Stances on issues.
Things I learned in church.
Things I learned in Sunday school or at camp.
Books and studies and even a few unlearnings.

And I always thought this was good.
That each layer was making me look like a better Christian.
That each layer made me more impressive.
Each layer added proof or acceptance or added more people on my “team”.
Or it made me feel more right than those that I disagreed with.

But lately those layers have started to peel away.
One by one.
Slowly and methodically.
Things that I believed and held on to are being shed.
Black and white is turning into gray.

And I worry.
And I’m not sure that I’m right.
Or that they need to be shed.
And I’m a little afraid at what I will find underneath.
Of how much will be left.

But the thing about a real pearl.
A natural one.
One of great value.
Is that you can peel layer after layer and every time you will find a new shiny layer underneath. Made of the exact same stuff as the layer on top of it.

Underneath it is still a pearl.
Rather than just an empty shell.
And that is the find of a lifetime.
And is the kingdom I can invest in.

This is part of Creativity BootCamp Day3. Random Word Prompt:Multilayered
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Margie said...

Love this so much I might save it and periodically re-read it. Great job, Michelle. (And, by the way, my own copy of BbB is coming in this week - yours will be yours again! Thanks for sharing.)

Corinne said...

This was such a lovely read... so thankful for it today. Your takes on the boot camp assignments are so... YOU :)