Last week was the official ‘Goodbye’ for our Kerith Academy students who have taken a year out to serve at the church. We celebrated, and reminisced and laughed at semi private jokes (So I want to buy a shirt for £97.00….) and prayed for their next stage, whatever that may look like… I shared with them a picture I had about a box of pearls. I thought I might share it with you too. Whoever you may be. I think we go though life with a small box… I imagine it to look a little like this because this is my favourite box that my sister in law bought for me. Feel free to use my box in your picture or adapt accordingly.
As we go through life we experience situations, have relationships, face difficulties, hear truths, learn from mistakes, develop our ideas about things. Each of these things is a pearl that we gather in our box. A lesson learnt is a pearl. A truth heard is a pearl. A mistake made which we won’t make again is a pearl. A kind word, a harsh word, the worst thing we can imagine, or maybe the best, all of these things can be pearls. Not all of them are beautiful to start with, some of them we would rather have not gathered along the way but all of them hold tremendous worth.
I don’t think it’s a coincidence that it is often people who have been abused who go on to do incredible work with damaged children; or those who have had difficult relationships who counsel others through theirs. Everything we face, good or bad, can be something of great worth either to our-self or to someone else.
I realised a while ago that I had a choice what to do with the things that landed in my lap, particularly the awful or disappointing or painful things. I may not have had a choice whether these things came my way, but to a large degree I could choose what to do with them once they were there. When I was younger I was a total martyr. Sincere and huge apologies to anyone who had to deal with me back then, I was such a handful!! The smallest thing would knock me off my perch, full of ‘woe is me’ and ‘my life sucks’. This would spill out onto all the people around me, I had no control over the toxic goop which oozed from every hurt or negative thing which happened. I was very immature and very naive. I thought attention, either positive or negative, was a good thing; that it would make me safe, that it would make stuff hurt less. But it really really didn’t. I was just annoying and hard work. I had some incredible friends who stuck by me, but as I look back I’m horribly embarrassed about how I used to behave.
At some point over the last 5 years or so I started to learn that I had this choice – to be a victim or to take a bit of control. The turning point was working with some very damaged kids in the special education service. I realised that there were things I had either experienced or learnt which I could offer to them to help them. I learnt that I needed to have processed some of these things in order for them to be a pearl, I couldn’t just spit up pain or anguish onto these hurting children, I needed to go through a process of letting the pain turn to pearls. You see a pearl is made when a bit of sand gets into the oyster and acts as an irritant. The pearl is only made when the irritant is covered and dealt with by the oyster. No irritant, no pearl.
Now, I am by no means an expert at dealing with stuff. My natural reaction is still panic, I like to be a bit of an over-reactor, I still over discuss things and over play them and over everything really! But I am further down the road of letting this stuff be a lesson rather than letting it take a hold of me.
And then there’s all the good stuff. I think we can add pearls to our box which have not been made out of our pain but are simply pearls given to us by others, maybe out of their pain, or maybe stuff that they have been handed from someone else… the cycle goes on. I hope I can be one of those people who not only takes pearls but also makes them and passes them on. I know there are some things in my box I’m still scared to take out, maybe embarrassed that they’re even in there. I hope if and when the time comes I will have the guts to get those ones out in the way I have some of the easier ones… maybe those are the pearls which are worth most because they have probably cost me most.
As I write this I think about those who have been brave enough to open their box of pearls for me. Those who have shared their heart aches and their learned-lessons, their experiences and their wisdom and I know I am the richer for these pearls, the richer for their willingness to give them away.
About the Author: A little bit about me…. I’m not quite middle aged but not far off. I have two children and a husband. I have worked as a behaviour support teacher and a worship pastor in a church and now I’m trying to be a writer. I like cheese, pork pies, cold dry white wine and chocolate. Either separately or all together. I bite my nails really badly so they look like gnarled stumps. You can find me on the web at http://www.helencottee.com