Ever had a moment in life when you felt like your world was flipped upside down? Of course you have. I don’t think anyone is exempt from life’s heartbreaks. My biggest was when I had to close my hospice house ministry. I won’t go into the details here but it took years of planning, fundraising, etc. We were only open a brief two years before we had to close for financial reasons. I simply couldn’t understand why God provided a way to start the non-profit ministry only to let it fail. The weeks that led up to the closing were the most difficult in my life. At times, I felt as though I couldn’t breathe. With a heavy heart, I tearfully prepared a letter for the staff. As painful as it was telling them, I knew it would be even more difficult to share the grim news with patients and families. I continued to pray for a miracle, knowing that God historically answers prayer in the eleventh hour. It's not over until the fat lady sings, I mused. Well, I could hear her warming her vocal chords, and I desperately hoped for laryngitis.
The final morning as I was getting dressed, I felt as though I was preparing for a funeral. Fumbling through my jewelry drawer, I glanced at a pair of pearl earrings. I smiled as I remembered an analogy about pearls that I had read many years before. I went to my bookshelf where I found the well-worn book, Seasons of Life by Chuck Swindoll. There were notes in the margin and highlighted quotes. It favored a used college text book.
Reminiscing, I determined that I had read it my senior year of high school, 1985. I laughed as I remembered basking in the sun at Myrtle Beach while reading the book. A strapping young man sauntered over and sat down next to me. Not an original pick-up line, "Whatcha reading?"
When I shared that it was a book about the different seasons we experience during our walk with Christ, he looked confused. I attempted to explain, "Well, right now I'm reading about winter, a season of quiet. 'We will not become men of God without the presence of solitude', I quoted.
"Well enjoy your solitude," he snickered as he walked away. Moving forward over twenty years, I flipped through and found the quote about the pearl.
One of His preferred methods of training us is through adjustment to irritation. A perfect illustration? The oyster and its pearl. Pearls are the product of pain. For some unknown reason, the shell of the oyster gets pierced and an alien substance-a grain of sand-slips inside. On the entry of the foreign irritant, all the resources within the tiny, sensitive oyster rush to the spot and begin to release healing fluids that otherwise would have remained dormant. By and by the irritant is covered and the wound is healed--by a pearl. No other gem has so fascinating a history. It is the symbol of stress--a healed wound. . .a precious, tiny jewel conceived through irritation, born of adversity, nursed by adjustments. Had there been no wounding, no irritating interruption, there could have been no pearl. Some oysters are neverwounded. . . and those who seek for gems toss them aside, fit only for stew.
Closing the book and placing it back on the shelf, the words ruminated in my mind, "Fit only for stew." I prayed a simple prayer all morning, "Create a pearl out of the mess, please make a pearl." I desperately wanted to know that something good, something of eternal worth, was being created through all of the pain.
That was several years ago, and while I still don’t know the reason the ministry closed, I do know God is faithful and is moving in my life. Maybe I’ll write about it in future blogs. For now, I think I may still be in the oyster. . . patiently waiting . . . anxiously waiting . . . patiently waiting . . . waffling between the two . . . trusting that God will create a pearl . . . in his perfect timing.
About the Author: Susan has been a hospice social worker for almost 20 years, and while she candidly admits she has struggled with her faith while working with the dying, in the end, she has found comfort for the crisis, joy in the mundane and a lot of laughter in the middle. Her agent is currently seeking a publisher for her first novel, Just Over the Horizon, the journey of a hospice nurse. You can find me on the web at http://oodlesofgrace.blogspot.com