By Jenn Castano
I saw these pearls in a dumpster last winter and the image struck me. I immediately thought of Matthew 7:6: “Don’t give what is holy to dogs or toss your pearls before pigs, or they will trample them with their feet, turn, and tear you to pieces” (HCSB). I realized that so often, we throw ourselves away. God makes us beautiful through salvation, a beautiful garment he clothes us with, and displays us before a hurting humanity in order to reveal his love to them. But sometimes humans are hurtful and selfish. Sometimes we are needy and wanting.
When I was little, I wanted friends desperately. I was shy and quiet, and not particularly fond of crowds. But inside me was a princess desperate to be the center of attention. Little by little, I’d reveal myself to those whom I thought were my friends. Often I was rejected. These situations wrecked me on the inside. I became a wounded adult looking for validation, dodging intimacy and walking around with a huge love hole.
Then came God. Full stop. Jesus revealed himself to me and filled all the void. He took my ashes (depression and loneliness) and declared me whole and beautiful—two things I’d never been. Allowing God to rewire my thoughts to believe the truth about myself is still a process, but I’ve come a long way forward.
Additionally, he showed me who I am: a pearl of great price—cherished, respected, admired, created by him. I am enough. He showed me that, like those pearls dangling from the dumpster, I had been discarded, but it didn’t diminish my value. I was dirty from choices I made in response to my circumstances, but he not only doesn’t see the dirt, he has redeemed me so that it’s as if the dirt never existed.
He reminds me to guard myself against casting his pearl before those who can’t see what he sees or appreciate my intricacies. My unique character traits and quirks aren’t accidents. He made them, and I can embrace them. I shouldn’t give myself away carelessly, and I can’t allow myself to be abused or put down.
The second part of Matthew 7:6 is a stern reminder of how little people are valued by each other, too often trampled and then torn to pieces. Hurting people hurt others. I bet I’ve often trampled and torn people up. For this, my response is repentance and forgiveness. This verse, this picture, teaches me a lesson more valuable than any earthly pearl. I’m thankful for how God speaks in simple, graphic messages, which opens my heart to see more of his mercy and grace, and my necessary response.
Today I’m that princess. I’m cherished by my loved ones and confident of God’s love for me. I’m thankful for my past, and I look with new eyes on those ghosts who’d like to draw me back. I press on, trusting in and leaning on God’s love.
Jenn Castano is wife to Jorge and mom to an almost-twenty-year-old missionary daughter. They live in Central New Jersey where they serve on the leadership team of a House of Prayer. Jenn’s passion is discipleship, and she loves traveling. She carries her passport all the time “just in case.” Read more from Jenn at JennCastano.com.
Photograph © Jenn Castano, used with permission