The Pearl of Great Price

Jesus told a parable about a merchant who found a pearl of great price. Overjoyed at this discovery, he sells all that he has in order to acquire it. This parable, and others similar to it, are part of a series of teachings about the Kingdom of Heaven. Even one small glimpse is worth sacrificing everything we have.

We are living in a turbulent time. In the midst of school suspensions, sporting events cancelled and family members in various stages of quarantine, it can be challenging to know where to turn next. These sacrifices we are making as a society weren’t voted on, and in most cases our opinion wasn’t sought out. And yet, the gift of sacrifice is waiting for us to make good use of it.

In the Christian tradition, the act of sacrifice is an act of life and love. Jesus Christ’s paramount example of selfless sacrifice on the cross is how God saves us from our sins and opens the gates of Heaven. We are called to participate in that same act when we offer our smaller, daily sacrifices with love for the good of others. Before a few weeks ago, these sacrifices might have included letting someone go before us, listening to a friend’s concerns for longer than we had anticipated, making someone else’s favorite meal instead of your own, etc.

Today, our sacrifices have gotten much larger. They now range to staying home from work, creatively stretching a bag of beans into multiple meals, monitoring toilet paper usage, cancelling our own events and celebrations, handling our children’s disappointment when their activities are cancelled and learning how to “do school” from home.

I think no matter what our situation, the biggest sacrifice we are being asked to make is one of time. Time is a tricky thing. There never seems to be enough, and at the same time (hehe, see what I did there?), we struggle when there is an abundance of it. We are each facing a unique situation which presents an undetermined amount of time that must be spent at home. When, in recent memory, have you been actually required to stay home? The last time you were grounded perhaps?

What an incredible gift this could turn out to be! What a pearl of great price to acquire! There are so many thing you could get done! In fact, I would challenge you to make a list, right now, of all the things you’ve been meaning to do and haven’t had or wanted to find time for. Go ahead, I’ll wait.

Finished? Did you remember to switch out your winter and spring wardrobe? How about paint the back bedroom? Or finally organize the closet in your son or daughter’s room? Don’t forget scrubbing the crayon off the wall by your toddler’s crib from who knows how long ago (just me?).

Now, if you’re like me, you probably just got overwhelmed by all the “things” that need to get done. You’re list, though full of great tasks, is missing a critical element. The people who you will be spending this unstructured time with are more important than any to-do list. The people, be they big or small, young or old, are waiting for you to be present with them. They are waiting for your gift of time.

You have time to talk to your grandma on the phone for as long as you and she like. You have time to write the thank you notes from Christmas or a birthday. You have time to make home-made play dough, and then actually play with your kids with it. You have time to read that book, “Just one more time, please!” You have time to say a whole rosary, maybe even uninterrupted if you wake up early enough. You have time to teach your son or daughter to sew, whittle, crochet, garden, mow the lawn, clean the bathroom properly, take your pick! You have time to bake cookies (and then probably put them in the freezer), to celebrate a friend’s birthday after we all get to congregate more than 6ft from one another.

So step back and take another look at your list. Take a moment and close your eyes. The sacrifice of staying home could bring your family a pearl of great value. How do you hope to strengthen your relationships with the people in your home, family and community during this period at home? Pick one or two things that at the end of all this, you want to look back and say, “Wow, that was awesome. Without this concentrated time we never would have done x, or y, what a gift this time turned out to be.”

It’s not going to be easy. I’m not saying that every single moment of this time needs to be spent in togetherness. Be sure to carve out time for yourself, your own growth and mental health. Go for that run, read that book, swing on the swing, make a home altar and spend a period of time each day in silence. Whatever it is, your time together will be all the more fruitful if you are also taking the time to care for your wellbeing.

These sacrifices are challenging indeed. But as we go forward into this unknown territory, the landscape does not need to be as daunting as some might make it out to be. The light shines a bit brighter when we embrace our sacrifices and and discover the pearls God is waiting to shower upon us.

Daily Graces. kktaliaferro.wordpress.com

God’s Delight

Sweet baby Gabriel is 4 months old now. He is in that wonderful stage of alertness, awareness, wiggles and giggles, all beautifully packaged in an immobile ball of chub. He is so generous with his smiles and laughs. He loves to watch his brother and sisters make faces, sing songs and share all sorts of funny noises to elicit one of his fits of laughter.

It’s impossible not to smile when Gabe, or any baby, smiles at you. There is something infectious about their simple joy. Gabe doesn’t seem to tire of smiling. Anything and everything delights him, even if it is the 20th round of “Wheels on the Bus” or his toes being constantly tickled. Without fail, Gabe will light up the room with his sweetness.

As I was playing with Gabe the other day, something hit me. My face, smiling in love and affection, was all Gabe needed to burst into a smile. Over and over again, he continued to find joy in simply seeing my face. It made me wonder if this is a taste of what it’s like to be in God’s presence.

A baby doesn’t need a reason to smile. Out of sheer delight and simplicity they burst into laughter. Over and over again without fail, Gabe’s smiles are guaranteed to brighten my day. How much more so will I find God, He who is Love itself?

God’s love for us is boundless. We delight Him in every way when we seek His presence in our lives. That smile from a baby which so easily fills our soul with joy? It’s microscopic compared to the joy we will feel when we stand in God’s loving, glorious presence.

I’ve shared a Chesterton quote before here. For those not familiar, GK Chesterton was a prolific and highly important writer in the early 20th Century. In his breathtaking book, Orthodoxy, he explores the idea of delight in repetition.

Because children have abounding vitality, because they are in spirit fierce and free, therefore they want things repeated and unchanged. They always say, “Do it again”; and the grown-up person does it again until he is nearly dead. For grown-up people are not strong enough to exult in monotony. But perhaps God is strong enough to exult in monotony. It is possible that God says every morning, “Do it again” to the sun; and every evening, “Do it again” to the moon. It may not be automatic necessity that makes all daisies alike; it may be that God makes every daisy separately, but has never got tired of making them. It may be that He has the eternal appetite of infancy; for we have sinned and grown old, and our Father is younger than we.

Gabriel’s “Do it again!” smiles bring us all delight and joy. I’ve heard it said that babies are the most perfect people because they have most recently been in God’s presence. Perhaps this is why one of a baby’s first milestones is to smile. They only knew joy and love while with God, isn’t it miraculous that one of the first things they are able to share with us is a piece of that joy.

Somebody’s Got a Name

“Would somebody cut my meat?”

“I want somebody do my buttons!”

“Why won’t somebody help me!?”

My sweet little 4 year old, Clare, seems to have discovered a new way to ask for help. Instead of addressing the person she wants to help her directly, we’ve all collectively been renamed. Somebody.

Reflecting back, I think this peculiar manner of addressing us really hit its stride after Gabriel was born. Our time and attention have undergone pretty major adjustments and every child handles a new baby differently. We’ve had both of our mothers come to stay with us, plus we delivered Gabriel in a city near some family. There have been lots of extra hands and a rotation of helpful faces. Which don’t get me wrong, is a HUGE blessing! But somewhere in the beautiful chaos Clare has forgotten how to ask politely for help. “Somebody” was always around so obviously “somebody” should be able to help her.

My new response in all this is, “My name isn’t ‘somebody.’ When you remember my name I’d be happy to help you.” I’m happy to help once she respectfully asks for it.”

While this might be a good response for a child in need of some retraining, how wonderful our God doesn’t have a similar response for us! Human history is riddled with examples of complaining, mistakes, anger, pride and ungrateful behavior. Just check out the wandering in the desert in Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers and Deuteronomy. Or the Babylonian Exile in Lamentations. Let’s not even get started with what the prophets had to go through!

Humans (Aka me) are notorious for being rude, impolite, snarky and plain old difficult when things aren’t going our way. This happens especially when the circumstances are beyond our/my control. “If only somebody would let me have my way/listen to my idea/help me achieve my goal/etc.”

Did you notice all the me’s and my’s in that? The more I focus inward the less I look at who is actually helping me.

Did you know that in these moments of testing and trial there is a very simple prayer which could be said? Conveniently, it even gives “somebody” a name – Jesus. The prayer is called ” The Jesus Prayer.”

Lord, Jesus Christ, Son of God,

Have mercy on me, a sinner.

You probably already have it memorized, right? Or could in just a few minutes of effort. This little prayer can revolutionize your daily life. Whole books have been written about how, but here are a few highlights:

  • This prayer clearly identifies who is in charge here and to whom we ought to be speaking to
  • We are reminded of Jesus’ divinity as God and His ability to extend mercy and love
  • We recognize that we are not in charge, that we are sinners and that we are always in need of Jesus’ merciful love
  • This prayer can instantly center us by pulling our focus back from whatever trouble we are having in order to see the bigger picture. God is God, we are not, and whatever joys or sorrows we have today will be better understood from a place of peace and prayer.

Interested in learning more about this prayer? Check out these writings:

The Way of the Pilgrim

Peter Kreeft on the Jesus Prayer

The Jesus Prayer in the Orthodox Tradition which has a very rich history of study and use.

The next time you wish somebody would come to your aid, slow down and take a breath. Inhale the first words of the prayer. Fill yourself with Jesus’ name. As you exhale, breathe out the second half. Release whatever your struggling with and place it at Jesus’ feet. Continue allowing yourself to be filled and emptying what you do not need to carry. With practice, you will find a peace within yourself you may not have had before.

Daily Graces. kktaliaferro.wordpress.com