Sand Paper People (or How to Effectively Produce Pearls)

Last week, during my leadership training, I met an abrasive woman (or as I like to say, a sand paper person) whose demeanor was quite unwelcoming.  While discussing the rules and regulations of building usage she displayed an attitude of inconvenience mixed with an overabundance of micromanagement.  Every encounter with her created an increase in my annoyance level that felt like sand paper going across my skin (or to others perhaps like nails on a chalkboard.)  At one point she interrupted our class to have a group of us move our vehicles to another side of the building to make parking more convenient for others who would be coming/going in the building.  THAT was my breaking point.  Although I calmly moved my vehicle, when our class reconvened, I failed to bite my tongue.  The comment I made wasn’t incredibly rude or malicious but was still a clear display of my dislike for this woman’s personality.  I was immediately convicted in my spirit and reminded comments like that do not produce pearls.

Yes, you read that last sentence correctly-produce pearls.   Last year, one of my best friends texted me about a dream she had.  In the dream, God spoke one word to her for me-refinement.  She shared the word but nothing else. It was up to me to receive the message and figure out what God meant regarding His refinement for me.  I prayed asking God to give me wisdom and show me specifically what He meant regarding the refinement of me.  Traditionally refinement is compared to the melting of precious gold or silver.  It’s placed into an inferno and melted down to cleanse the metal from all impurities.  It’s said the metal stays in the fire until it’s so pure the maker can see his own image in the metal.  The metaphor behind that is that God refines us (Christ’s death even cleanses us from all our impurities) into His image (Malachi 3:3, 1John 1:7 and Zechariah 13:9)

After praying, I read Malachi 3:3 and googled “Refiner’s Fire.” During my research on refinement, I felt God speak “sand paper” to me.  My human thinking thought about sand paper in the literal sense-a rough abrasive material that creates smooth surfaces on wood.  So, I thought God’s refinement meant he was using sand paper people and sand paper like situations to sanding me down into a softer image of Him.  But then I heard God speak the word “Pearls” to me and I remembered how a clam produces a pearl.  At least I thought I did until I was trying to explain God’s refinement for me to a good friend and it wasn’t making sense to him, or to me.

So I went back to Google and researched how a pearl is made.  I read that when a clam gets an irritant (usually a grain of sand) in its muscle it produces a protective layer around the irritant in order to protect itself from being harmed by the irritant.  Those protective layers are the pearls we wear in various forms of jewelry.  And then it “dawned” on me.  God was teaching me that my refinement was the same as a clam producing a pearl.  Instead of allowing people and situations to affect me in negative ways that caused me harm by stealing my joy and exhausting me from being so angry and frustrated I needed to form protective layers and produce pearls.

This past year God has shown me a variety of ways I can produce pearls.  The Bible teaches us to not let the sun go down on our anger (Ephesians 4:26) put away all bitterness, wrath and malice (vs 31) and to “be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as Christ forgave you.” (Vs 32 NLT) Colossians chapter 3 tells us to clothe ourselves with “protective layers” of tenderhearted mercy, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience.  Four of these are also listed in Galatians 5 along with love, joy, peace, goodness, faithfulness, and self-control-all classified as “fruits of the spirit.” And speaking of fruit, Jesus used parables about bearing fruit as a metaphor in showing His love to everyone we encounter.

Over and over the Bible tells us to love each other as Christ loves us, and to forgive as Christ forgave us.  Producing pearls is an act of mercy, a display of kindness, the key to humility, an opportunity to practice patience and the perfect source of gentleness.  When we “sweat the small stuff”, we become a clam that allows the irritant to injure its muscle; injuring ourselves and others physically, emotionally and spiritually. Our negative reactions damage our character as well.  When we practice producing pearls, the irritant can’t harm us. The people around us also receive the blessings of precious gemstones in the forms of our humble, gentle, and kind responses. No matter what type of sand (or sand paper) people or circumstance may throw at you, always choose to produce pearls.  And this is something that clearly I am still working on “practicing what I preach” as well.

I’m Not Gonna Write You a Love Song….

Ever listen to the lyrics of “Love Song” by Sara Bareilles?  In it she sings, “I’m not gonna write you a love song, cause you ask for it, cause you need one, you see, I’m not gonna write you a love song, cause you tell me it’s make or break in this, if you’re on your way.  I’m not gonna write you to stay, all you have is leaving, Imma need a better reason to write you a love song, today.”  I heard once she was inspired to write this song after a record company demanded she write them a love song for production.  This could be fact or fiction but personally, I love her response to their demand and I love the song.

Valentine’s Day is right around the corner and as they say, “love is in the air.”  I’ve been thinking about a blog topic on the subject and then recently I heard the above named song.  It validated my thoughts on the subject of Valentine’s Day and love.

February 14th is a day filled with many emotions.  For those married or in a relationship there is an expectation of romantic gestures that may include the traditional chocolates, flowers, jewelry and/or candle lit dinners.  For those unattached, there’s a reminder that they are, well, still unattached.  To some single folks, it’s a day they are even more thankful to be unattached because the pressure to meet romantic expectations from their significant other is non-existent.  But this can also be a day of great disappointment when, if you’re attached, your significant other fails to “deliver” or meet your idea of romance.  All in all, it’s a day filled with great expectations, false hopes and honestly, is a worldly view of love.

In thinking about what to write for this post, I researched the history of Valentine’s Day. What I discovered was a man sainted for privately marrying young lovers who were forbidden to marry because the leader of that day thought young unmarried men made for better warriors than those who had wives and children.  He was reportedly martyred for his actions.  The day is believed to be named after him because he reportedly sent a letter signed “Your Valentine” to a woman he loved just before his death.  So the holiday is possibly named after a man who believed in marriage to the point it cost him his life.  Yet somehow it’s been turned in to a commercialized holiday that measures love by expensive gifting and big romantic gestures.

I confess to you that for years I bought in to the romantic notions of Valentine’s Day.  When I was in a relationship I hoped for chocolates, cards that expressed my partner’s deep love for me, roses (of course!) and a romantic night out at a fancy restaurant.  I am, after all, a hopeless romantic.  I love romantic comedy movies, especially when the lovers split up but get back together in the final moments of the movie and you’re left to assume they live “happily ever after.”  My favorite fairytale was Cinderella and yes, there were days I dreamt of a prince rescuing me.

Funny thing about reality though-it’s not as romantic as the movies or the fairytales.  I experienced some very wonderful Valentine’s Days only to be dumped later on and feeling like everything was just a lie.  I have also spent many more Valentine’s Days single, alone and throwing a pity party believing I was undesirable and not relationship or marriage material.

This past year I let go of a false love I had been holding on to most of my life.  It took someone I thought I deeply loved, behaving in a cowardly manner to push me to explore what real love is.  My journey led me to 1 Corinthians 13 (Love is patient and kind, etc.) and 1 John 4 (God is love, we love because He first loved us.)  It also took me to Romans 9 which talks about love being sincere (don’t just pretend to love others, really love them.)  In the book of Psalms I discovered an unconditional love that supersedes any kind of human love, even between a parent and child.  I studied the different types of love in the Greek language also.  In all my exploration I learned that real love is my real God.

My God sacrificed Himself, His life even, for my salvation.  He seeks to spend quality time with me every day.  He desires to have the most intimate relationship a human and spiritual being can share with me.  THAT is real love.  He doesn’t send me chocolates but He gifts me with fields of wild flowers every summer.  He doesn’t sing me love songs but He wrote the book of Psalms and the Song of Solomon reminding me of His unfailing, uninhibited love for me.  He doesn’t shower me with expensive jewelry but He makes the water look like diamonds when His sunshine dances across the waves.  He doesn’t take me out to romantic dinners, but I have coffee with Him every morning while reading His word and my devotionals.

If you’re married or in a romantic relationship, ask yourself this question:  Does my partner love me like Jesus does?  Do I love my partner the same way?  If the answer is yes, praise God for experiencing His real love through your partner and for using you to be His tool of love also.  If the answers is no, ask God to show you how you can start loving your partner like He loves you this very day.

If you’re single remember this, singlehood doesn’t define you.  It’s a simply a relationship status.  But since God never leaves us nor forsakes us, you are never alone.  The next time somebody asks you about if you’re dating or married, just tell them you’re in a committed relationship with God and He’s the best partner a person could ever ask for.

One last reminder before I close-Just like we shouldn’t be thankful only one day of the year like on Thanksgiving Day, we also shouldn’t be focused on love one day year either.  LOVE is a daily choice to show toward everyone God puts in your path.  Let February 14th come and go and choose to love every day because God doesn’t just love you on Valentine’s Day.  He shows His love for us every day.