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.