In the course of a conversation over a week ago, the phrase “The Pearl of Great Price” came up. Since then, these two little verses from Matthew have been following me around in my mind and in conversations and correspondence and other encounters.
“Again the kingdom of heaven is like a man who is a dealer in search of fine and precious pearls. Who, on finding a single pearl of great price, went and sold all he had and bought it.” Matthew 13:45-46.
This morning I picked up the book I had started to read last night and encountered this very phrase again. Let me just go ahead and admit that I have been running from this concept. I started to write something on it last week, but found other things more pressing. Every time I hear the phrase in my head or encounter it elsewhere, I keep telling myself, I will take some time later to think about it. But most telling is the fact that I have not opened my heart to let God speak to me about it. I have not asked him what he thinks about it and why it is relevant in my life right now.
The word “cost” scares me. The words “great price” make me cringe, and I know my perspective is wrong here, for the words that should grab my attention are “fine and precious.“ Cost is always relative to what something is worth. I have no problem paying $10 for a fine meal, but at $100 I would probably walk away because it is merely a temporary satiation I am looking for and temporary things have much less value than long-lasting ones. You would pay hundreds of thousands of dollars for a house because it is an investment, it retains its value, you can live in it, and it lasts for a very long time. Paying a similar amount for a vacation or an event seems to be a questionable investment of your resources as the item has a limited longevity: a few weeks and it is all over.
The other word that should have stood out to me is “search.“ The person was actually looking for this very thing, searching for something precious and when they found something beyond their wildest dreams, they did not have to give it a second thought - they cashed everything else in and sunk all their resources into the most incredible and precious thing they had ever encountered.
What is the thing I am searching for? What am I willing for it to cost me? How will I know when I encounter it?
A small way for me to understand this is marriage. When I was single, I was looking for a friend, someone to love me and accept me and challenge me and be with me for a long time without it getting old or boring or predictable. When I met Dean, all the important things I had been looking for were found in one person, and I sold my independence, my self-centred life, my desire to look elsewhere for love and attention, my freedom to live anywhere and anytime I chose, and in return I got something of great value, fine and precious and long-lasting and deep and faithful and nurturing and life-giving and growing and fun.
I have been talking about decision-making with some friends and I acknowledge the fact that I need to become a more decisive person and here in these two verses I find the steps to accomplishing that:
1. Know what you are searching for. Keep the goal always in mind.
2. Search. Look. Be active. Make decisions that put you on the path to finding the things you are searching for. If you are saving up to buy a precious stone, don’t be hanging out in dollar stores or spending all your money on candy.
3. Be knowledgeable. If you are going to recognise something precious, spend time with those who also value the precious and valuable things. Learn from them. Read, ask, pray, and think. Practice recognising precious things and dealing carefully and respectfully with them.
4. Save yourself. Don’t waste your hard earned collateral and energy and your very self on shiny or temporary things. Save what you have for that which is worth it - the thing you are looking for. Sometimes you might see a counterfeit and almost talk yourself into buying it because you are tired of searching and it sure looks good, but resist the temptation to settle. You know better.
5. Jump in. Once you encounter something that seems to be “it,“ you are most likely to have second thoughts. The truly precious may not be perfect, but it will be pure; it will be clear and undiluted, though perhaps covered in dirt. It may be smaller and less significant than you expected, but it will be bright and powerful. It may not be the exact colour you wanted, but it will exude an aura of love that you can’t take your eyes off of. You may scrape it but it will not be chipped. You may put it in your pocket but it will not be contained. You may try to walk away but it will not give you peace. This is the precious, the thing worth selling everything else for. Do not be afraid.
I am talking to myself, you know, and perhaps next time I will have the courage to get more personal with the pearl. But this is a start.