Finding the Pearl of Great Price
...a personal journey of finding the pearl of great price.
This may also be your answer to your longing for more in your life.
This is a long journey.
Not all of you will read this,
some of you will.
Some of you will find the "Pearl of Great Price."
I love treasure hunts and remember as a young girl inviting my friends over and taking them on a long bike ride through our pasture and countryside on a treasure hunt. The prize was a large bag of popcorn...some prize...not exactly the pearl of great price...but the fun was in the hunt.
Even now, as a mother of seven children--some young adults--I still make up treasure hunts for them on special family occasions, whether it's in our own large home, the neighborhood--even a two hour "photo hunt" over the whole county--my kids love the hunt too.
On our more fanciful days we brainstorm and daydream about someday joining in a "round-the-world-treasure-hunt" on commercial airlines, or better yet, private jets.
Maybe someday we could go diving in the Mississippi River by our home and look for a real pearl of great price in there.
Our friends have found natural pearls in the Mississippi River.
My children are quite the dreamers...I wonder who they got that from!? But this journey of looking for the pearl of great price that I relate here isn't a dream. It's true. It happened to me. It can happen to you.
Somewhere along the line of life, at quite a young age, I had high ideals smashed into me--smashed, but not forced.
Maybe it started as my mother would teach me to sew...cutting out each piece exactly, being careful to save as much fabric as possible, and then precisely join each piece in a meticulous manner.
Or maybe it was listening to my parents dream about
--where to put the in ground swimming pool....(a total impossibility on a Midwest farm budget), or
--how big to make the addition onto the house ....(a total impossibility on a Midwest farm budget), or
--how beautiful a brand new yellow Chevrolet convertible would look parked in our driveway....(a total impossibility on a Midwest farm budget).
These dreams were almost as impossible as finding a pearl of great price.
Or maybe when my dad would take me on his knee as a toddler and ask, "What are you going to be when you grow up? President of the United States?" He would always pick the highest and finest ideals for us to envision ourselves being. I think that's where it all starts...this quest for the best.
If my parents had been pearl divers...they would have inspired us to find a pearl of great price.
If you could have just see the penetrating searching in my baby eyes? I was destined to be a treasure hunter for the pearl of great price from day one.
Our lovely, but modest home thrived with riches...my parents built it themselves from home-sawn lumber, do-it-yourself eye-catching landscaping with endless lawns, a two room full size playhouse (I was the envy of my friends for this), acres of pasture to explore, home grown food, sibling love, and training to make designer dresses from mom's old quilted circle skirts...yes, even a very tiny in ground swimming pool, but not the large one we dreamed about.
I lacked nothing as a child, but still...I knew there must be more...a pearl of great price.
Don't we all know "there is more"? All the comforts can be ours, all the necessities, all the extras, but still..something deep within us haunts us...there is more. It reminds me of the Edgar Allen Poe poem called "Nevermore." It's like our soul cries out: "There is more...there is more...there is more."
I understand even Prince Charles has been quoted as saying, "It's as though something is missing."
What is missing?
Is it the pearl of great price we're looking for?
We attend church, first to satisfy parental wishes, then for our own, "looking for meaning and purpose."
But what do we find? Sometimes, only meaningless tradition. We know the truth is here. We know the pearl of great price exists. But where, how, why, when....these questions often provoke our souls.
"You shall know the truth and the truth shall make you free."
Is it truth we're seeking? What is truth? Where is truth? Who is truth? We are like Pontius Pilate when he asked, "What is truth?" What is the pearl of great price?
Is the pearl of great price the truth we're seeking?
As a Lutheran, I was knew the Bible as truth. Yes, I had doubts as an older teen. I wondered, "Is it a fairy tale?" "Man made perhaps?" "Accurate?" "Necessary?"
Church for me as a young girl (Would you believe that I was the city's "firearms champion"? at age 11? The sixteen year old boys were not impressed.) was great...a place to see my friends, Pam, Muriel, and Harriet on weekends. A place to dress up and to wear my new designer creations and nylon stockings.
Looking for a pearl of great price was far from my mind.
Yes, we learned in Sunday school. We even had assignments...Saturdays always included, after a day of cleaning--getting all those dust ball out from under our beds, changing the sheets, shaking out the throw rugs out the windows--a bath, hair curlers, and doing our Sunday school lessons.
That "fresh-start feeling" of snuggling into clean sheets on Saturday night always invigorates me.
About my graduation photo my kids say this..."Mom, you were pretty...like Audrey Hepburn!" (Did you notice the "past tense" there?)
When I "looked like Audrey Hepburn", church was a place to compare notes in whispers with Pam, Muriel and Harriet about our Friday night escapades as we huddled together in our big country church's balcony.
Looking for any pearl of great price certainly alluded me at this age too.
Also, this age of me bombarded Izzie Sander, our Sunday school teacher, with searly questions: "Is God real? How do we know He's real? What about all those people in Africa? How can God be God if everyone doesn't have a chance to know Him? Is it important that we believe? What should we believe?"
Poor Izzie probably went home after church, exhausted.
Izzie was from the "East," and to this Minnesotan, she must have either been an easy target or somehow I maybe thought she really knew the answers. I don't remember her answers, only that she sincerely tried to give them in an unflinching responsive mode. Her resolve held firm. My questions never caused her to doubt, at least not that I could see openly.
The hunt for the Pearl of Great Price had begun!
But what exactly was I looking for?
Peace? Answers? Purpose?
Yes, I think "purpose" remained elusive and haunted me.
Sure, I could make clothes, pretty myself up, have fun, make friends, do well in school...but still...something eluded me...something missed in my soul's makeup, like a misfiring engine.
All these securities and talents once brought security and a safe feeling...but they didn't satisfy...I needed a destiny to fulfill...a purpose...a reason to live...a reason to die.
But what? I made one goal after another...fulfilling most of them, but not all....each time...the "nag" never left...the "hole" never filled up...the "search" never reached completion...the pearl of great price treasure never was found.
It lay buried deep perhaps in some foreign country, some foreign destination, some...??
\\\\,h3>While the unknown treasure I sought lay buried...
I buried myself in my own written words, in thoughts, in books, in TV, in friends, in clothes, in dreams, in hopes, in depression, in despair...
Depression was returning more and more often and stayed for longer intervals. It became my friend, my enemy, my companion, my foe...I wore it like a cloak becoming miserable to myself and anyone around me. I wore black. I wore the same thing. I settled in. I solidified. A trap caught me and held me fast. I saw no way out. I forgot to cry.
Why did my search for the pearl of great price take me here?
I defended. I ruthlessly spoke of individuality. I fearlessly stood alone. I stepped outside the box. My goal: to change the status quo. Be different. Be me. Any open discussion time in classes became a soap box for my "out of the box" ideas. But, lonely and empty inside the box...lonely and empty outside the box. No difference. Only a different landscape. More gods...more successes...more defeats...always emptiness.
Not even a hope of finding the pearl of great price.
I'd forgotten God and Jesus and all "that stuff"...church, tradition...at the time--meaningless exercises.
As a college freshman to attend church or not became my personal choice...I tried...I really tried...but it lost its hold...tradition has weak cords. They broke. I forgot... I forgot about my journey of seeking for the pearl of great price.
Sundays became sleeping in
As a way of filling up the hole and boredom in my soul I started "collecting friends"...were they the pearl of great price?
Growing up on a farm outside of Echo, Minnesota, I knew two types of people, Germans, who lived mostly on the south side of town, and Norwegians, who lived mostly on the north side of town. Each had their own churches. We all went to the same school. Inside of those communities, there were two denominations, Lutheran and Catholic. Those were more vastly separated than the nationalities.
So, now, in college, even though only thirty miles from home, I came in contact with the mixture of the masses...black people, big city people, foreign people. These I stared to "collect" like specimens in a science lab or something...every color, every shape, every background, every type...maybe their greetings to me on campus fed something in me...I don't know, but unconsciously, I wanted everyone for my friend or at least an acquaintance.
I was getting desperate to find the pearl of great price.
...even though I didn't know at the time what I was looking for.
In high school I went through a phase like this too...but totally with motives to get myself elected as a homecoming queen candidate. It did not work...which was one of the best things that ever happened to me. But that's another story.
But in college...a smile and personal acknowledgment was everything to me.
That's all I had.
Then it ended. Abruptly. I reached this big black impenetrable wall. It stood before me, behind me, below, beside me. Only straight up there was a small hole...just big enough for a word to filter through...one word..."help"..."help"..."help"...
It was a lonely night. There was no one to say hello to me. No one to greet me. I wandered around a deserted campus on a Sunday night...begging inside for a smile...a hello...some acknowledgment of my presence...some touch..someone...something....
But nothing...just a cry from deep within my soul raised upward..."Help!"..."Help!..."Help!...
Then, a thought popped into my mind
...maybe I'd feel better if I got a job.
Again, another goal...maybe that would fill the vacant place.
I sauntered over to a near-by supper club, sat on a stool, asked the manager for a job, got the job..."Sure, you can start tomorrow night," and left.
The only trouble...did it pack the vacuum with peace, joy, hope?
NO....now, emptiness, depression, school and a job! Ugh! It only made things worse.
Too lonely to go to my room
I wandered into the religious center (that I'd been avoiding by not attending church services), leaned my head against the door and observed a panel discussion of two boys and one girl. The boys were aggressive and often interrupted the girl. That's what I noticed the most. They were rude.
I did notice they were talking some sort of religious talk and recall hearing the name of Jesus a few times but what stood out to me was their rude manners toward the female panelist.
However, one of them spoke of working for a summer in the ghettos. This sparked my interest: "Maybe I could give me life to the people in the ghettos!"
Also, after the discussion ended, my depression which I didn't attempt to hide, being obvious, must have prompted them to show me some kindness by buying me a coke.
So, I approached the one who spoke of the ghettos and asked about his experiences. He name was Al and he suggested we sit down outside on a cement bench by the entryway.
Al shared honestly about working in the ghettos...yes, it had merit, but it hadn't satisfied his soul. He said he would literally beat his head against a wall sometimes...in despair at wondering what life was all about. He too, had hoped working in the ghettos would answer his quest...but it hadn't.
However, something else had.
Then he dropped a "loaded grenade" at my feet. He asked: "What are you living for?"
Yikes! What a question!
What a night to be asked that question! I'd never been asked that before! I had no answer! Especially tonight!
I swallowed hard. No answer came. I could almost literally feel my "heart" dropping into my big toe. I was totally stumped. I never realized that I had no answer for that question.
Then a whiff of hope blew into me from "somewhere."
I "clutched up my heart" which was by now deeply entrenched in my big toe and said: "I'm living...to find something to live for!"
I was pretty proud of my creative answer...it was honest...open-ended...real.
Al then proceeded to tell me his own story of frustration and longing and how he'd tried to fill the void in his life with ghetto service but only one answer satisfied his hurting soul: "Jesus."
"Jesus," I thought, "is He real?"
I'd forgotten about Jesus. Can a person 'live for Jesus?' I wondered?
Al spoke of Jesus as if He were real, a real friend, a real personality who could be consulted and served.
It was a moment of what my children call "epiphany."
For me..."Supreme Epiphany!"
If Jesus were real and was who He said he was...and I knew a lot about this dude...remember all those Saturday night Sunday school lessons?...
Then...Yes! Of course! There could be no higher purpose than to serve the God of the universe!
A realization of Jesus illuminated my brain, heart, soul, everything in me! It seemed literally like a light bulb had been switched on inside of my being.
It all became so clear.
I would live for Jesus Christ.
Al explained about not just believing in Jesus Christ with my mind, but the necessity of "being born again"...totally renewed in my soul.
I was desperately waiting for him to invite me to kneel right at the entrance to the religious center to pray and give my life to Jesus. I'd been outspoken for everything else...now I longed to make a public display of my new desire to follow Jesus--the pearl of great price.
He didn't. Instead, after our talk, I rushed home and quickly gave my life....lock, stock and barrel to Jesus Christ--The Pearl of Great Price.
That was thirty-six years ago.
I have never looked back with regret.
Thank you for reading my journey of finding the pearl of great price....
Yes, the Pearl of Great Price can be found....
Jesus Christ is the greatest treasure of all.