The Character of a Pearl

In order for a pearl to form three things are required:

  1. An intruder or parasitic irritant
  2. The ability to process calcium carbonate, conchiolin or nacre
  3. Time

Intruder: Naturally occurring pearls are formed inside the shell of a bivalve mollusk when a foreign irritant, or intruder enters the inside of the shell. A parasite or foreign irritant can gain entrance into the shell when it becomes damaged by water currents; when the shell is attacked by predators; or a parasite can slip in during the the shell's regular feeding process.

Process: Regardless of the entry point, once inside the shell, the irritant or microscopic parasite sets off a process by which the mollusk takes its first steps in becoming a pearl by slowly covering the irritant with layers of calcium carbonate which is fused together by an organic compound called conchiolin also known as nacre. As this process of integration takes place the mollusk begins to take on the character of a pearl.

Time: It takes a mollusk five years to fully produce a pearl the size of a small pea (3 millimeters), and for larger pearls it can take the mollusk's entire lifetime. In Matthew 13:45-46, Jesus said, Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a merchant looking for fine pearls. When he found one of great value, he went away and sold everything he had and bought it. After reading this portion of scripture, I asked myself: Why would Jesus compare the Kingdom to a pearl? In many ways our lives are like that of a mollusk. Like the bivalve mollusk, we also have a parasitic irritant, but ours is called sin. Like the mollusk, it sometimes takes us a certain amount of time to mature--to master a particular character trait, and sometimes it takes a lifetime. So the next time you see a natural pearl, it should remind you that you are in the process of aggregating into your life features and traits that will make you mature into a pearl of great moral character.