Thursday, September 10, 2015

Pain and Pearl

Each of us needs an opportunity to be alone, and silent, to find space within the day or in the week, just to reflect and to listen to the voice of God that speaks deep with us.
                                                                                --Cardinal Basil Hume

That phrase—speaks deep with us—I first overlooked because this quote is part of a larger quote I read, and then upon rereading it, I misread it. Finally, I saw it for the treasure that it is. Here’s my reflection around it, out of what I’ve been experiencing in my life in recent months:

Be still, still enough to get past the surface junk, the masks that fool even me. Get past the ego, the place at which it all gets quite painful and ugly, the place where I understand deeply and humbly that I am the vilest offender, the chief of sinners, broken beyond repair by my own hand. It is then, at that moment, that God can come and begin to speak deep with me, picking up the shards of my shattered image of myself. Instead of gluing them back together to make a rough, bumpy replica of what I was before, God tosses those aside and instead picks up what I could not see, blinded as I was by the brokenness. God picks up the pearl lying amid the broken pieces, breathes life into it, and holds it close to God’s heart.

The pearl, born of suffering and love, is the seed of God in me, there all along, but not visible to me until I was still and silent and alone for long enough that all that blinded me to it was seen by me for the falseness that it is.

God has been speaking deep with me in this season, in the desert, both words of challenge and words of affirmation, all of it truth, deep calling to deep. I can’t prove it’s God, yet I know for certain it is. The pearl is love, my true self. Even when it is trampled by swine, cast aside for shinier baubles, or abused by those who would try to selfishly hoard it, it lasts. It was created in suffering, so it can withstand suffering. It is divine, so it cannot be possessed by manipulation or force.

I am learning of this pearl within me. It is in all of us, but it is hard work to find it, and most of us will not choose the work; it must be forced upon us, unbidden and unwanted. Even then, we can choose to mask the pain of it with distraction and denial, rather than live with the pain of being stripped, broken and exposed in all our filth and ugliness.

Even if we stay with the work, the painful work, long enough to hear God speak deep with us, long enough to discover the pearl, it remains elusive, unpredictable and undomesticatable, because it is enlivened by the Holy Spirit. The pearl’s discovery is not an arrival, but a threshold, a place of beginning again, not without its own pain, but with a wisdom that can only happen through the hard work of being broken.

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