In my last post (Part 1), I compared myself to a clam. It was rather poetic (… not really). I will however continue my thoughts on selfishness here. Do you ever notice in your selfish moments how easily you can be annoyed by others? This has been one of my observations in the last couple weeks. I am working so hard to take care of everything that any bump in the road, unexpected delay, or intrusion makes me tighten my jaw and clench my fists in slight frustration. It is to the point of being humorous actually.
Becoming irritated seems to be easier when I am being self-centered. Things get under my skin. And then because I am so busy working on the next task, I do not address it. I just let it sit under there and fester. Bitterness, anger, and snappy-ness can be the result.
The same things happens with shellfish, or lamellibranches (Doing research! Can you tell?). Mollusks, usually oysters, get irritants under their mantle. Something slips into their shell and gets stuck. In an effort to fix the nuisance/protect itself from the intruder, the creature begins covering the grain of sand with nacre (this is the material that they use to make their shell). As time passes this tiny dot becomes a giant hard ball.
I think when we are selfish like shellfish, we can equally make a big deal out of a grain of sand. We let something small rub us the wrong way and we keep going over it, licking our wounds, and in time it becomes a giant burden we carry around. We tend to focus on our own hurts and blame others and feel entitled to a little self-pity. And the ball grows thicker, heavier.
As I mentioned in my previous post, focusing on God’s care can help us be free from selfishness. I equally believe he can free us from the irritation, frustration, and bitterness we let build within us in our more selfish moments.
The big ball mussels produce we all know more commonly as pearls. Typically someone has to pry open the shell and carefully remove the pearl. I imagine it is an uncomfortable moment for the little guy, but in a weird way I bet he is grateful. The pearl, which we value, he does not. It is still a nuisance and source of pain and something he cannot expel on his own volition. Removing it is an act of mercy.
God could be seen as the great pearl diver for all us sinful shellfish. We get hurt, ruminate on the pain, and grow in self-pity, our own pearl. We get stuck in selfish endeavors, dreams or goals, a pearl we cling to for “our own good”. Enter God. He dives into our lives, ignores our snappy defenses, pries through our self-protective layers, opens up our most vulnerable self to him, reaches in and cuts out the pearls formed in selfishness. In a similar fashion to the little abalone above, it is uncomfortable, often unwelcomed, but an act of mercy that surprises us.
Sometimes when God pries us open it feels like we have lost something valuable, a piece of ourselves we know, a deep core issue we think belongs in our identity. Sometimes surrendering our selfishness makes us feel nervous and uneasy. Our ambition wanes and we feel a bit lost. The drive to accomplish certain goals has lost its passion. The thoughts and beliefs that once held a prominent position in our minds begin to fade.
Please do not cling to a pearl formed out of selfishness, self-protection, or self-focused goals. Do not cling to pearls formed from irritations, worries, or wounded pride. The pearl that fills the shell can be removed, even if you do not know who you are without it. Their can be new space in your life. It may feel unknown and uncomfortable, but it is space God created for you to know and enjoy him and others more.
I want to encourage you to know God in that space. If you are feeling selfish, easily irritated or realize you are carrying the weight of the world on your shoulders invite God to pry you open and poke around a little. I hope he can find some burdens, pain, selfish goals, or false beliefs to remove. I hope he can free up some space in your life—space for forgiveness, grace, generosity, and hope.