Plain Packaging


We have all seen it occur. An awkward, and unlikely contestant in a talent competition surprises the judge’s panel and the entire audience by revealing a spectacular singing voice. The great gift within had been hidden by a dismissive exterior. The resultant shock registers on every face as tears flow freely throughout the performance. You would think we would get used to this kind of thing. But we never do. We register surprise each time we encounter an unlikely hero. Yet, it was God’s idea to put the pearl inside the oyster.... the pure gold in a lump of valueless ore.

Once, long ago, God put all of His magnificence and glory into human form. He then put that newborn human into an outhouse stable with an unlikely set of nervous parents. The stable was in a one horse town not in a shining, capital city. To accentuate the principle,  that town, Bethlehem, was in occupied territory on the remote outskirts of the vast Roman empire. The subtle incarnation was announced to lowly shepherds, not ostentatious kings. It just goes on and on… God methodically reduces the exterior in order to reveal the precious interior. He wraps gifts in plain packaging.

When you stop and consider, that is what He does with each of us that belong to Him. It continues  throughout our lifetime. Age, disease and the rigors of staying alive cause us to ‘reduce’ our expectations that we place on our fleshly packaging while, at the same time, we grow inwardly into a spiritual treasure, the value of which is beyond compare. To maintain focus on our own exterior throughout life is not unlike throwing away the pearl and retaining the oyster shell.

I just read through a list of some of the world’s richest women. Excavating and mining had made some of these baronesses wealthy, however the one with (by far) the greatest fortune sold makeup. Attempting to look good is producing more wealth than any other industry. Mankind surely does look on the outward appearance - but God looks at the heart. Some of the ladies on the list had obviously spent a lot of time and money trying to patch up their oyster shell. Such a misconception of true beauty.

God wraps beauty in ordinary wrappers. He fashions gems under pressure. He obscures the truth in parables. He loves surprises. All the while, He plants clues as to what He is up to. The homeless vagabond who sings like Pavarotti… The blind beggar who writes poetry that moves the masses. The crippled nursing home resident who paints like Monet. Most of them will never have opportunity to stand before us or a panel of judges. But they are not hard to find, tucked away in alleys and institutions. They roam the streets, singing for their audience of One. The Giver of the gift… the One who placed the pearl within the shell. He is always listening with delight. Their song rises from this tired earth to greet His ears. It is an anthem in the making, and someday soon - it will be the Hallelujah we all sing.

That will be the day we shed our shell and reveal our own pearl within, to the glory of God. Tears will flow freely as, with the entire audience, we stand and applaud Him, for no one is crippled anymore. No one is blind any longer. And, wonder of wonders - we all have found home.