I was thinking this morning about this parable. Jesus tells a parable to his disciples that seeks to describe the kingdom of heaven, what it is like: "...the kingdom of heaven is like a merchant in search of fine pearls; on finding one pearl of great value, he went and sold all that he had and bought it." Matthew 13
I couldn't let this one go. It was very much like that thing you do when you bite your lip or your cheek when eating. As the hours go by the the wound continues to sting, your tongue seeks it out and worries it. Like picking at a bug bite. It hurts, but it also feels "good" to work at it.
So, hours later, I sit here in my office wondering about that pearl of great price. Much of the parable is transparent. The metaphor presumes that we (the merchants in the story) are seekers and are committed to the discovery of the pearl of great price (the kingdom of heaven). When the seeker finds what she is looking for, then she goes, sells what she has and uses that to buy the One Thing she has always been committed to finding. Great. Only, now she has no possessions other then the object of her obsession...at least that is what my gut is telling me. My heart and soul may say something different...but there seems to be a basic disconnect for this person from reality. You don't give up the day-to-day fulfillment found in a lifetime of passion for one moment, right?
Well, perhaps. When I was a kid, my parents told me a story of when they were first married. My father wanted to get my mother a present. She wanted a purse. So, my father went out on his quest...but quickly came to realize that there is never "just" a purse. A woman's purse is a thing specific to her, to the purpose of the task and to the aesthetic that she is wishing to project. You can't just go out and buy a purse. You have to be willing to commit to searching for and to finding the "perfect purse." This concept, the "perfect purse" has worked its way into the family lexicon. It doesn't matter what we may be looking for, it could be a new piece of furniture for the house. It could be a house, for that matter...but the question, at the moment of commitment, is always the same, "Is this the perfect purse?"
The question itself causes a pause in the process of making a decision, a final step into relationship with any thing that is being obtained. "Is this the perfect purse?" creates understanding and accord between the agents in the search. Are we willing to embrace THIS moment, this THING as THE THING we were searching for in the first place?
The pearl of great price is just that, the thing we realize that-upon finding it-is the very thing we have spent a lifetime in search of; it is the perfect purse.
I have, too often in my young life, found myself trying to make something that is not that one thing, that true pearl of great price, into the thing itself. I have tried to shoe-horn many moments and choices into being a discovery of the perfect purse. The alarm bells should go off when I find myself saying, "Well, this could fit, maybe....right?" Wrong.
When I let my own worrying tongue push into a wound of expectation I created with my own appetites and "sell all I have to buy it" I wind up even more profoundly wounded. When I live into the vocation of being a seeker after the one thing that is of value to my true self in Christ, then letting go of attachments is not only easier, but healthier as well into the bargain. It doesn't hurt to go all in on the kingdom's gifts. In fact, with that commitment to the one true thing that God is offering up...the perfect purse becomes that which I had all along. The pearl isn't out there anymore...it is in me as I live into the heart of Christ.