We had just finished an extraordinary afternoon with men, women, and children of the church deep in the African bush. God’s Word had been shouted out and they had received it with joy, clapping and laughing. In the midst of all the dancing and eating, thank you’s were said and gifts were generously given. The day was ending and we were starting our long, three and a half hour, drive back to town.
As we drove off, I thought about how these people had suffered. Surviving a terrifying cyclone four months earlier, their losses were still numerous. Their homes had been destroyed, their belongings were scattered and most everything had been lost. Life was hard here in the bush. We had offered them the hope of God’s love, some food for their hungry stomachs and blankets to warm them through the cold nights.
As we drove away, the people we had just ministered to were standing on the side of the path waving and thanking us. My husband spontaneously opened his window and tossed out a triple strand necklace of shiny white pearls into the unknowing crowd. (see note below) One pair of dark hands reached up, out of the stifling musky afternoon air, and caught the unexpected gift.
Paying attention landed one woman an unanticipated treasure!
In the middle of her extremely difficult life, a precious item came her way and she reached up and grabbed it.
I thought of my mother, in the midst of harsh circumstances also, as she heard about the saving kindness of Christ. In desperation, her eyes were opened and she reached up and grabbed a handful of grace that started a legacy of forgiveness in the lives of her children, her husband, and many others, even to this day. Paying attention secured for her this incredible treasure!
I have a friend who is enduring excruciating pain in the midst of a shattered relationship, yet, as she prays, she finds, “God is certainly moving in me,” because she believes “God changes lives and softens hearts and makes all things new.” Pearls, every one of them. Unexpected. Given in the midst of desperate sadness.
Even in Jesus’s time on earth, precious truths were offered and taken, without knowing the outstanding consequences.
Like in John 4 where one day a Samaritan woman came to draw water from Jacob’s well. She was standing there doing her ordinary task on an ordinary day. But this day proved to be anything but ordinary. As she reached down to draw that common-ordinary water, a man, Jesus, asked her if she would give him a drink and then offered her a drink of living water.
A handful of pearls. Would she recognize it and catch them? Or would they fly and land in the dirt?
She did look up, saw that something beautiful was being offered and eagerly replied, “Sir, give me this water!”
Treasure, right there at Jacob’s well.
This morning while penning thoughts in a journal, my heart ached for dear ones in need of a handful of precious treasure, something good, anything to redeem the piercing pain. There’s the one struggling with intense sadness, and the one who’s daughter is fighting for her life. Grief overwhelms another and her thoughts are full of wondering about God as she allows the sorrow to do its work. A loving mother prays for her sons who have rejected their faith and the God who loves them. Struggling to feel loved and known by her husband and her God, another friend tires of the questions. A friend rejects a friend. A worker hates her job; another quits because the place is so toxic.
Darkness. Sadness. Fear. Anger
These feel like poison, terrifying and ugly, not pearls on a string, beautiful and adorning.
But John 1:5 says: The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.
Out of the darkness the Light of the world dropped from the Hand of The Giver. The answer to our darkness came to earth and those with eyes to see reach up and receive the strands of grace, wondering at such an unexpected gift. How is it that I am one to receive?
Ann Voskamp writes, “Who knows why God allows heartbreak, but the answer must be important enough because God allows His heart to break too.”
And look at what happened!
God’s heartbreak led to the salvation of mankind! Out of that darkness the Light came screaming through the dimensions and into our lives. Grace. The Treasure, given.
What is breaking your heart today? Does the way appear to be dark, the path unclear, the agony unbearable?
I wonder if, perhaps, an unforeseen deeper goodness or truth might be flying your way.
Let’s wait for it, keeping alert. Sometimes we just have to lift our hand and grasp the pearls spontaneously thrown and hold the treasure close to our hearts in thankfulness for the grace so beautifully and unexpectedly given.
I can just imagine that dear African woman waking in her grass hut each morning. Is she putting on her white shiny strands of pearls while feeling amazed at the gift and at how beautiful they make her feel?
Perhaps undeserved, unexpected, unsolicited grace adorns, in the same way, those who have eyes to see and hands to grasp these truths close to their hearts.
(Note: Brian did not usually drive around Africa with pearls in his pocket. That day he had used a necklace, donated by a friend here in the USA, to illustrate a talk he shared with the men about the kingdom of God. He had also used them earlier in our trip in sermon he preached at Savane, another bush church.)