Pearls and Priests (and a Hoof Trimmer)
I’m not proud of myself for this, but several weeks ago, if you had visited, you would have found me curled up on the sofa, throwing an impressive pity party for myself.
I was afraid I had irritated a friend, exactly the type of thing that can color my entire world gloomy. Black confetti was raining down, and mentally I was poking pins into any upward-bound thought bubbles.
This drama was interrupted by a knock at the door — a hoof trimmer, ready to tend to our horses.
I didn’t grow up with horses, but I’ve learned a few things since being married to my husband. I’ve learned how to slip a halter over the neck and nose and secure it with a knot. I’ve learned to avoid the hooves as I lead the horses out of the stall. I’ve learned that it is soothing to brush a curry comb under the warm manes while the horses stand there, enjoying it.
I’ve also learned that a Natural Barefoot Hoof Trimmer is not the same as a farrier – and a hoof trimmer will defend this distinction!
A farrier places horseshoes on the underside of the hard outer hoof wall to shield it.
But a Hoof Trimmer works only with unshod hooves. He gradually trims the hard outer hoof back, making it level with the soft inner sole. The inner sole then hardens as well, strengthening the whole hoof and making it less likely to crack at stress points.
Our hoof trimmer also happens to preach on occasion. He has preached at least a dozen full-length sermons to me, as I’ve held the horses for him.
This day, he was preaching about precious metals and stones.
“Where is a diamond formed? Deep in the darkness of the earth, under great pressure. After it is mined, it is cut away until it reflects the light just right.”
“And where is gold found? Again, it is hidden away, deep in the earth. Then it is heated with fire, and an agent is mixed in to remove impurities.”
My favorite illustration was the forming of a pearl, hidden inside an oyster:
a grain of sand…
invades the oyster.
The oyster then covers it over and over,
until it becomes a pearl.
I knew this, but I was surprised when I learned more details… of pearls and priests…
The oyster’s shell is made and maintained by a part of the oyster called the “mantle.” This word is borrowed from the “mantle” worn by priests (because the mantle of some molluscs resembles a priest’s cape).
The mantle is soft, living tissue, not hard shell. From this tissue, the hard outer shell is formed. But the mantle also forms and repairs the inner shell: the iridescent lining, called “nacre.”
The mantle is wounded in the process of forming a pearl. In fact, in domestically cultured pearls, oyster farmers literally make a cut in the mantle, causing it to “bleed” nacre. Then a small irritant is inserted. The oyster is allowed to close back up and “heal” by covering over and over the irritant with nacre. In several years, a pearl can be extracted.
I listened, identifying with the sandy irritant.
A grain of sand isn’t worth very much. In the wrong place (like an eye), it can be as obnoxious as a paper cut, consuming every thought.
But God compared people to sand when He made His famous promise to Abraham:
“I will greatly multiply your descendants… as the sand which is on the seashore… (Genesis 22:17)
We are descendents of Abraham through belief in the promised Messiah. So the promise that follows on the heels of the first is full of hope, ready to claim:
…in your descendants all the nations of the earth shall be blessed…” (Genesis 22:18)
Blessed. Not irritated.
For a grain of sand to become a valuable blessing instead of a worthless irritant, it needs to be covered by the “bleeding” nacre of the wounded mantle.
For a person… for me… to become a valuable blessing, I need to be covered by the bleeding of the living Priest who was wounded for me. The flesh of this Highest High Priest was cut — pierced — making a place for me, so that He could willingly bleed His covering over and over me.
“Christ came as a high priest… the blood of Christ [will] cleanse our consciences…” (Hebrews 9:11, 14)
“He had to become… human… a merciful and faithful high priest… tested by suffering…” (Hebrews 2:17-18)
“He himself bore our sins in his body… by his wounds you have been healed.” (1 Peter 2:24)
“He was pierced… he was crushed…
the punishment that brought us peace was on him, and by his wounds we are healed.” (Isaiah 53:5, ca. 600 BC)
The hoof trimmer wrapped up his examination of the last hoof, clearly pleased that the inner sole was stronger and more able to bear weight. He clipped away a bit more of the outer wall, gathered up files and knives, and left.
I went back inside. Brushing away the debris of self-loathing, I tucked myself directly into the wound of my High Priest, letting His blood wash over and over me – over my flaws and prickles…
understanding that the price He paid for me is what makes me into something valuable.
“Blessed is the one… whose sins are covered.” (Psalm 32:1)
“…we have now been justified by his blood…” (Romans 5:9)
“By one sacrifice he has made perfect forever those who are being made holy.” (Hebrews 10:14)