It was there. I knew it. I just couldn't find it.
Every step I took told me there was something sharp under my foot. I took off my slipper. I took off my sock. I shook them out. I put on my sock. I put on my slipper. I took a step. Arrrgh! Still there! Over and over, I repeated this on-off-on procedure until I discovered a tiny,but sharp pebble deeply embedded in the fleecy fur of the slipper. I felt like the storybook princess who felt a tiny pea buried under her many mattresses. Something so small disturbed her terribly.
This tiny stone irritated my foot and annoyed me greatly. How about when a piece of sand gets in your eye? It rubs and scratches and grates against the delicate tissue causing redness, tears and ultimately destruction if it is not removed.
A few (quite a few!) years ago, I was on a retreat with several friends. Nancy, Neil and I were walking, and I had trouble with the stairs due to an old injury to my right knee. At 16 years old, I had surgery on the knee after a bad fall that chipped part of the back of the kneecap (among other things). The surgery removed the chips and repaired the ligaments & tendons, but the surgeon did not smooth the back of the kneecap, as he should have. Consequently, the knee was (and is - despite 2 additional surgeries) a "constant source of irritation". When I explained my knee trouble to Nancy & Neil, I mentioned those words "constant source of irritation". Immediately, Nancy turned to Neil with a smile (or should I say smirk) and said, "Neil, you are a constant source of irritation!"
We have laughed about this for years since. But if you have someone, or something, in your life that is a constant source of irritation, it usually is not a laughing matter. Just the sight of that person can raise all sorts of emotions. Just the reminder of that situation can cause physical responses such as tightening of the muscles, headaches... do I need to go on?
But take that very same grain of sand, that source of irritation to the eye, place it in an oyster, and something magical happens. When that irritant is caught inside the oyster's shell, the oyster starts to secrete a substance called nacre. This substance coats the irritant and encapsulates it. According to Wikipedia, "Nacre, also known as mother of pearl, is strong, resilient, and iridescent. This substance is called "mother of pearl" because it is literally the "mother", or creator, of true pearls." What begins as an irritating annoyance is transformed. The insignificant grain of sand has become a valuable pearl.
What is important to note is the fact that the irritant in the eye is exactly the same as the one in the oyster. What is different is the response! Scripture is clear that God allows tribulations in our lives (John 16:33). Jesus said, "I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world." The phrase, "you will have trouble" is sandwiched between "you may have peace" and "take heart. I have overcome the world!".
Whatever is your "constant source of irritation" can be transformed into a valuable pearl if you respond as the oyster. Won't you be "strong, resilient and iridescent" (reflecting the light!)? Would you receive your irritation as the beginning of a beautiful transformation in your life? Will you recognize that God allowed this person or situation to be close to you for your benefit, so that you can be transformed? And take note - there would be no valuable pearl without that annoying irritant!
In the fable, the princess was troubled by a small matter. In real life, you are a princess (1 Peter 2:9) You are a daughter of the King. Do not let yourself be troubled by what really is a small matter compared to our kingdom, our eternity! Allow that nuisance to bring about transformation - Christlikeness - the most precious, priceless, valuable quality you could ever possess.