I’ve always loved the meaning of my name: “Pearl.” Years ago, someone spoke over me (I don’t know if they knew what my name means) that I am like a pearl, pulled out of the mud (by God) and placed in settings of gold. I have carried that picture of redemption with me ever since – the beautiful, saving work of Jesus Christ.
I used to think the pearl, like a diamond, was formed under pressure. I recently looked it up and was surprised to discover that it’s actually formed by irritation. The most valuable pearls (the natural ones) occur spontaneously in the wild. They are extremely rare, and unlike other gemstones, pearls don’t need to be cut or polished. They are formed without human interaction when an irritant (usually a parasite) works its way into an oyster. The oyster’s defense mechanism, to protect itself, is to release a fluid that coats the irritant. The fluid hardens, layer upon layer, around the irritating particle, creating a beautiful pearl of great worth.
Personally, I think I can identify a bit more with irritation than pressure. If I’m honest, I’m prone to being irritated. As a stay-at-home mom, I struggle with it. And with summer upon us, I don’t want to spend the next two months irritated by my amazing kids. (Not because they’re irritating… but because I’m selfish and easily irritated.)
What if, when an irritant or foreign thought entered our hearts and minds, we were quick to envelope it with God’s truth and love, with prayer and worship, and see the beauty that can be revealed in our brokenness?
There’s a story in the Bible of two woman who were irritated, and rightly so. And each of them had a different response to the irritation. Hannah and Peninnah’s story is found 1 Samuel 1. A man named Elkanah had two wives: Peninnah and Hannah. Peninnah was blessed with children; her name even means jewel, or pearl. But the Bible says that Elkanah loved his wife Hannah, who was barren, and gave her a double portion. Hannah’s name means grace.
In verse 6, we find that Peninnah kept provoking Hannah. On purpose. In order to irritate her. The one who was called a jewel – a pearl, the one who had external negativity enter in, in turn became the irritator. The one who had children and could have extended grace to the one who was lacking instead poured salt on Hannah’s open wound, disturbing her peace and annoying her.
Year after year, trip after trip, Peninnah provoked Hannah to the point that she wept and would not eat. She could not enjoy that which her husband had provided for her because of Peninnah’s ridicule. In verse 10, we see the best response to the irritation: “In bitterness of soul, Hannah wept much and prayed to the Lord.” She didn’t complain to her husband, she didn’t throw insults back to Peninnah, she didn’t even confide in a close friend.
She took every frustration, every anguish, every bitter hard thing and laid it bare before the Lord. She lived up to her name – grace – receiving it from the Lord and extending it to others. She wept, she prayed; she found comfort and peace and made a promise to the Lord.
Eli then accused Hannah of being drunk, and I love what she said: “I was pouring out my soul to the Lord” (vs 15).
How often do we do this? How often do we respond to the irritations of this world by running to our Heavenly Father? I don’t want to let my irritations get to me and result in me being an irritant to someone else. What if we began to cover the fear and frustration with the Father’s grace and let Him turn it into something beautiful, something priceless?