How Oysters Teach Us About Long-suffering and Irritation
Have you ever looked at a pearl closely? It is smooth, iridescent, and rounded. Pearls are made by oysters and some other mollusks, however oysters are the most common creatures to produce them. You see, when oysters grow, an internal organ called the mantle takes minerals from the oyster’s food and creates a material called nacre. Nacre is the material it uses to produce its shell. We sometimes call nacre “mother of pearl” because of its shiny and pearlescent appearance.
Occasionally a foreign material, such as a grain of sand, gets in between the oyster’s body and its shell. This bothers the oyster the same way that an itchy tag on the back of your t-shirt would bother you. So it secretes more nacre around the irritant, creating a smooth layer so it isn’t so scratchy anymore.
Now, many people will stop there and take this awesome illustration from nature to help us to see that we need to gloss over the irritants in our lives, either ignoring them or covering them over. The idea, then, is that the irritant would go away.
I would like to propose something else. If that smooth layer was enough to stop the irritation, why does an oyster keep producing its nacre? As long as the speck is still there, it will continue to bother the oyster, and the animal keeps secreting layer after layer, making the pearl grow. So, in effect, the irritant is magnified. The oyster continues to work on this aggravating situation, producing a buildup of coatings as it tries to stop the irritation. But the irritant only gets bigger.
So when you look at a pearl, YOU might see it as a gem or something of great value, but the oyster sees it as a memory of a big pain!
Now, we definitely have to deal with irritants in our lives, don’t we? Mom? Mom? Mom? Mom? Mom?Mom?MOMmommomom.???
Really it is more like when the washing machine leaks all over the kitchen, seeping into the drywall and causing mold. Or when we get a flat tire right as it is raining while we were on our way to take the children to soccer practice and Dad is out of town. How about the constant juggling of bills and budget? Or child training? Or dealing with a stressful job, or challenging family relationship?
I could go on, but you get the idea. There are lots of things out there that cause irritations. And ignoring them won’t make them go away. In fact, if we don’t address it, the sharp irritation will cause damage. So we deal with it the way an oyster does. It takes work and energy to change an irritant into a beautiful pearl. A pearl is a product of long-suffering. However, we will need to call to God for His strength and power in order to face it.
It also takes time. A lovely prized pearl isn’t created suddenly, but after layers and layers of mother of pearl, laid down for up to a decade. This process will have a long-term effect on the oyster.
Likewise, we wrap our irritation in perseverance, patience, or forgiveness, one layer at a time. We continue to lovingly discipline that child. We get on our knees, asking for wisdom as we deal with that challenging relationship. We work harder at organizing our schedule around trips to the laundromat until the washer is fixed.
This process will have a long-term effect on us. Producing a pearl makes us different than we were before. Indeed, we have created something that is precious, but we are changed because of it. We have gained wisdom from the continual challenge. The pearl’s presence is a constant reminder of the time we spent working on that relationship or training that child or dealing with whatever other irritants come into our lives.
And that pearl becomes precious to us.
Our pearls of wisdom, patience, or other treasures are produced because of the difficulties of life we face. Which is for our good.
So next time you see a pearl, remember that it was made because of a continual irritation. The irritation grew and grew as the damaging effects of it were covered over. It took work and it took lots of time. But it produced a valuable, beautiful result.