After I earned my master’s degree in ministry, I spent two years teaching English at a university in China. It was a magical, glorious experience filled with exhilarating travel, new friends, and the exploration of different cultures and cuisines.
Whenever I spent a long weekend traveling, more often than not I found myself at the Hongqiao Market in Beijing in a store known as “The Pearl Market.” Here I could find anything from fake name-brand sneakers and Asian trinkets to freshwater pearls and stunning pieces of jade.
I always gravitated toward the pearls. And today, I have a beautiful collection of pearls of every shape, size, and color. Whenever I wear them, I’m reminded of the laborious process required to create these beautifully imperfect gems.
When an impurity or a parasite penetrates the armor of a mollusk and enters the soft membrane inside, the mollusk goes to work healing itself. This process takes between six months to several years. The result is a pearl, encasing the impurity within its beautiful exterior. Each pearl’s story is unique, therefore, each pearl is uniquely beautiful. The imperfect, misshapen pearls are my favorite because I know what it takes to create them.
I appreciate this beautifully imperfect process because we live in an imperfect world. And, I experience discomfort, adversity, and hardships along with everyone else. As a high school teacher, I spend my days wading through the hormonal trenches of teenage angst. I get to be a part of educational successes, personal growth, and family healing. At the same time, I work daily with students struggling with body issues, relationship beginnings and meltdowns, mental health challenges, eating disorders, bullying, unhealthy family situations, and learning hurdles…all accompanied by tears, laughter, and real, genuine emotions. While I do love fulfilling my calling as an educator and find this job rewarding, most of you can attest to the fact that this profession can add (let’s just call it) “strain” to an educator’s already stressful everyday existence.
But thankfully, when I face challenges in my life and areas of influence, I can call upon the divine Creator for help. When I invite Him into my struggles, He covers them with His grace and mercy and peace and righteousness and comfort and love. His presence coats my adversity, taking something that once tried to harm me and turning it into something beautiful and unique…just like a pearl.
God wants to be present in your life as well. Whatever you are facing at this moment, whether it is the stress of teaching, financial pressures, constant anxiety, or a different challenge, God is there, ready to act. He is waiting for you to invite Him to transform your struggle into something beautiful and unique…
So as we head back for the second half of the school year, I invite you to join me in remembering the promise of the pearl.
“Because he loves me,” says the LORD, “I will rescue him; I will protect him, for he acknowledges my name. He will call on me, and I will answer him; I will be with him in trouble, I will deliver him and honor him.” Psalm 91:14-15, NIV
Jessica Burchfield is a high school teacher, photographer, and writer from Florida. After earning her master’s degree in ministry, she spent two years teaching English in China, followed by over 20 years in education, including classroom teaching, communications, and curriculum.
Like what you’re reading? Then don’t miss an issue. Subscribe to be notified when the next issue is published.