The Parable of the Pearl of Great Price
45 “Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a merchant seeking beautiful pearls, 46 who, when he had found one pearl of great price, went and sold all that he had and bought it.
When I wander among the jewels of the “Brilliant” Cartier Jewel Exhibition at the Denver Museum of Art, I can’t help wonder at the longing these jewels represent. Men and women bought them out of longings. Some longed to impress. Some longed to feel beautiful. Some longed to exhibit power or intelligence. Some must have had beautiful souls and, caught up in their lives they simply chose the form of beauty accessible to them, the way you and I might buy ourselves flowers on a whim at the grocery store when in fact we were only there for eggs. We all have outward signs of our longings: the priest’s cross, the librarian’s glasses, the dancer’s shoes, the writer’s fountain pen, the child’s blanket which can convert from warmth in nap time to cape with the addition of a safety pin when super-hero powers seem to be needed by the planet, the club membership of a politician, the prayerbook of an old, faithful mystic, the love of a good Bishop.
The longings of the human heart are, in my view, the most powerful energy in the cosmos. We long to love, even if life has warped that longing into something else. We long for God but often do not realize that God is the actual source and object of our longings, both. We search for things. We buy things. We grab at power, sex, money, symbols by which we want to be known. We humans will do just about anything in our pursuit of longings we so often have never gone deep enough or have silence enough to explore.
Over and over again in ministry, I try hard to incline humanoids to spend time with themselves and their God, both at the same time. To do this hard work is like entering into a submersible and dropping into the depths of the deepest sea bed where the waters are clear and cold and where life hangs on with a floating grace which defies imagination and convicts the atheists. To sit with our own psyche and wander its contours like a submersible – lights lit, pencil out, map open, gages on -is to explore the pear of great price about which the old parable muses.
What if the pearl of great price is not out there somewhere? What if it is not that next hoped-for job? What if the pearl of great price is not the friendship which seems to fulfill our longings not to be alone? What if the pearl of great price is not that one sexual or sensual experience we think we want or wish we had or want to re-live – just once more? What if the pearl of great price is not finical security or even the returned love of the person from whom we seek it?
What if the pearl of great price is the very longing which longs for that pearl? What if what we seem so deeply to want is what we have, but it is deep down there where God waits for us with God’s longing for us in his chair with a fire roaring and an empty chair he is patting as he winks at us and pours a brandy? And what if, in the end, our longing IS actually God’s longing transmitted through us.
And what if the Epiphany light is nothing more than a beacon drawing us out into darknesses in which the longings we find, and meet, and feel so deeply – what if the uncreated light which sometimes peeks out from behind the curtains of our misplaced longings is enough to see the pearl which we have within us and which, when found, is all we really need to feel the kind of belonging which the longings are designed to help us to find?