How to beautifully handle what irritates you

Published 3:09 pm Tuesday, December 22, 2020

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“Tracy, what do you want for—” “Pearls!” The question very rarely must be completely asked. The answer is always the same.  Pearls. I want pearls. The answer has been pearls for many years now. You would think my tank would be full. Pearl necklaces, pearl earrings, pearl bracelets, pearl rings, and on and on. Just how many versions of pearls does one woman need? Depends on the woman. I love the overwhelming grace of pearls. I love how they are pure, innocent and honest. They are stoically strong and delicate at the same time.  I love their chill when they are first put on. I love their grit as I run them across my teeth—yes, I totally do that. Of course I do that.


You know what I really love about a pearl? How it is made. A little irritant comes into a mollusk and the mollusk goes to work relieving herself of it.  I will call our mollusk an oyster since most folks marry pearls to oysters. Although we think sand is often the irritant, the reality is its usually a parasite busting in the door. That parasite is such a, well, parasite. When our oyster friend opens her valves for feeding or even for respiratory reasons, it just barges right on in. Poor little oyster just minding her own business and bam—now there is this lousy parasite doing his best to make life miserable. This parasite has had zero cotillion lessons. He is an extremely poor guest. At some point our oyster friend has had enough of this foolishness, so oyster decides to handle him. Slowly, layer by layer, the oyster will form a hard layer around the parasite. That’ll teach him. Go oyster go. And Oyster does. Oyster handles her business and while she’s doing it, she’s making what is meant to harm her into a pearl. You are cheering for the oyster really hard right now aren’t you?


You know why you’re cheering? Because we have all had a parasite try to take up residence within us. We know what its like to fight off an irritant. Somebody said words meant to harm you. Somebody did something to intentionally get under your skin. Maybe life has worn you smooth down to the bone and little things which you normally would not give a second thought to have found a way to make you grit your teeth. Irritants. They happen. And sometimes they happen just because we are trying to breathe. Sometimes people are invasive, sometimes cruelty is the flavor of the day. And on days like this, we need to start making our pearl. There is always an option to contain what is meant to hurt us. We treat the threat for what it is, a threat. And slowly, with much purpose, we begin to contain it. Contain it in the most beautiful way. Because that’s what we do. We take our little irritants, and we use them to make something beautiful.


But how? How do we go from parasite to pearl? We realize we are dealing with an irritant and we admit it. We then realize who we are. Perhaps, better phrased, we realize whose we are. I am a Hall. I come from good stock. I value dedication, integrity and my neighbors. But I didn’t get here without a price. I’ve been told irritants and parasites will come. But I’ve also been told I will have the chance to turn them into pearls. You have too. Irritants and parasites will come to you, on that you can depend. Your ability to turn them into pearls depends upon who you belong to. Who has come to claim you? Who says over and again you belong to him?


I want pearls, I always want pearls, they tell a story. I want them because they handled the thing meant to harm them with grace and beauty. It took them time, it took lots of work, it took coming to terms with the fact there are irritants and parasites, but they remained steady going about their work. And in the end, the oyster won. They didn’t lose their value, they quite literally added to their value. What was meant to harm, found itself powerless.


Familiar? It should be. Someone came to claim you. You belong to somebody. Christmas comes to tell you exactly who you belong to. You can celebrate. No irritant or parasite will win. Perhaps I need to realize I have more metaphorical “pearls” than I could ever need. Perhaps I need to remember I have these pearls, these victories, because of who I belong to. Maybe I love my pearls because they whisper of the promises my creator made to me. He will handle all the irritants and parasites of life. In his sweet time, with his precious hands he will make all things new. I need a promise like that. He has come, full of overwhelming grace, pure, innocent, honest, strong yet delicate in how he handles me. My pearls are but a reminder of him.  I need that reminder every day, but especially on Christmas. I am his. You are too. My Christmas wish for pearls needs to be changed into a Christmas prayer of welcome for the one who claims me, who calls me his own. I’ll start now: O Come, O Come, Emmanuel.