Frances Layden - Pearls - Boring, Oregon Convention

I would like to share with you some thoughts I have been enjoying about 'pearls.'  Jesus spoke of the pearl as a type of His kingdom, Matthew 13:45-46.  He also spoke of the pearl as a type of His work within the lives of His people, Matthew 7:6, something that we should treasure and guard very carefully.

In Japan where I have been laboring, there is the belief that “only the pure of heart can produce beauty from the sea.”  The girls who work in the pearl industry are chosen when very young, before they have in any way been defiled.  These young women give their lives to this work.  They are taught to love the work, and they must be willing to sacrifice their lives for it.  Often their lives and their health are endangered.  The character of the worker is supposed to be reflected in the pearl.  To me, this is a perfect picture of the ministry, God using pure lives to gather pearls for His kingdom.  Paul said to Timothy, “Keep thyself pure.”  We must possess the purity of Christ in our own lives if we are going to be helpful in making others pure.  In this work also, the character of the worker is reflected in the lives of those we help.  This is a work we need to 'consecrate' our lives to, and 'concentrate' our efforts upon, and carry on at the cost of our own sacrifice.

The pearl is the only gem created within a living object.  It is formed within the body of an oyster.  Some time ago, I visited a pearl farm in Japan.  A young diver, thinly clad, dove down to the bottom of the sea and brought up some oysters to show us how it is done.  They begin with baby oysters.  They are taken from the sea and placed in fine-screened baskets and then placed back into the sea again.  This protects them from being swept out to sea where they would be lost.  I like to think of this as the protection that the Lord's people place around their children.  Children are indeed pearls in the making.  Parents must do all that they can to protect them.  There are so many storms today that are sweeping young people beyond the reach of the gospel.  Children in the homes of God's people can be very thankful because of the special protection that is placed around them.

The next step in the making of a pearl is a major operation.  After a certain length of time, the oysters are taken out of their basket, and one by one are opened.  An incision is made and a seed placed within them.  This is a very critical time.  It is like a mission - a life or death matter.  Those working in this industry know that it is a very critical work they are doing.  This incision is made in the very heart of the oyster and a tiny bead is placed there. This bead is made from the shell of an oyster that has already given its life.  The very beginning of a pearl represents death and sacrifice.  On top of that a graft of skin that has been taken from another oyster is placed…another life that has been sacrificed.  One oyster supplies about 17 grafts.  We realize, too, that there is nothing more critical than the work of the gospel.  The future of each life depends upon it.  The work of God is like a sharp two-edged sword.  It cuts deep.  Something contrary to nature is placed within the heart.  Many tears are shed; many prayers are uttered at such times because souls are standing in the balance.

When people listen to the gospel, a portion of the life of Christ is implanted within them.  Apart from this, we could not possess the life and nature of Christ. It comes from no other source.  When this new seed has been placed in the heart of the oyster, it is again placed back in the sea in a basket.  There it is restricted - it cannot go where it pleases.  It is confined in this place where it can be protected from the enemies around it.  This is a picture of God's people placed in little groups where they can be cared for and protected.  How different this is from the popular evangelist who says to his converts, “Go where you want to…join the church of your choice.”

From time to time, the baskets are lifted up and the oysters are all inspected.  This is like a convention, a time of inspection and cleansing.  The oysters at that time are all scraped.  So many things have attached themselves to them.  Some oysters have also become attached to the basket and that has hindered their water and food supply and have to be freed.  After this, they are placed back in the sea again.  This sea experience is necessary.  We cannot always live in the atmosphere of convention.  We need the experience of facing the dangers in the sea around us.

After the seed has been planted in the oyster and it has been placed back in the sea again, it goes through a time of suffering.  This foreign matter in the heart of the oyster causes great pain.  We were surprised to learn that about 50% of the oysters spew out that bead.  They cannot bear the suffering.  We are often disappointed too, after trying so hard to help people, to find they are not willing for the suffering and self-denial.  The oyster that casts out this bead becomes useless and good for nothing.  It may be cared for during the remainder of the time just like the rest, but what a disappointment when it is one day opened and there is no pearl inside.  Only the final judgment will reveal what is actually inside of some people.

Every day that the oyster suffers, a secretion goes forth which hardens and forms a layer of pearl.  This secretion is comparable to tears.  There are layers and layers of tears placed upon that bead and the more there are, the more valuable it is.  The oysters remain in these baskets for about five years, and this represents 1,800 layers of pearl, or 1,800 days of suffering.  Sometimes we wonder why God allows suffering to come into our lives, but these tears are for a purpose.  I believe the greatest work in our lives is accomplished through tears.  There are often trying times that bring on suffering, experiences that add beauty to our inward life.  When a small pearl is wanted, the oyster is merely taken out of the sea a little sooner -- this may help explain why young people are sometimes called by death.

Amongst all the shellfish, perhaps the oyster is the ugliest.  It has a plain gray, rough shell.  There is no outward beauty about it.  The beauty is all on the inside.  This is also true of the Lord's people.  They were not to wear pearls to add to their outward beauty, I Timothy 2:9.  Their beauty is on the inside.  “We have this treasure in earthen vessels.”

After the pearl is taken out, the old shell is cast away.  It is no longer needed.  This speaks to us of death.  When the final separation takes place, the old shell is laid to one side and the pearl is taken home.  Then we will realize the value of every experience the Lord has led us through.  “'And they shall be Mine,' saith the Lord of hosts. 'In that day when I make up My jewels.'”  (Malachi 3:17)