Adorning Oneself

“Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a merchant looking for fine pearls.  When he found one of great value, he went away and sold everything he had and bought it.

  • Matthew 14:45-46

Your beauty should not come from outward adornment, such as elaborate hairstyles and the wearing of gold jewelry or fine clothes.  Rather, it should be that of your inner self, the unfading beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is of great worth in God’s sight.

  • 1 Peter 3:3-4

“The clothing industry makes a killing every spring when people come out from under rocks to wrap themselves in new Easter threads, shoes, and hats.” …
“What the fellas will hate most will be any discomfort, posing for camera shots, nutty-looking vest, pants that haven’t been ‘broken in,’ and Mom’s adamant refusal, ‘No, you can’t wear your sneakers!’
“I’ve been through the Easter-apparel torture chamber too many years to ignore the obvious: most boys never outgrow their shrug-of-the-shoulder attitude toward new clothes … and most girls will forever maintain their ecstatic delight for such.  Why?  Now that’s a question worth some thought.”
“I’m of the opinion that most men buy their clothes for purely functional purposes. …  But when a woman buys a garment, she is usually looking for something that will change or enhance her.”
“Simon Peter … knew what he was talking about when he wrote a reminder to the ladies: [1 Peter 3:3-4 above].
“We cannot substitute outer garb for inner godliness.”

  • Charles R. Swindoll, The Finishing Point

The quote from Swindoll comes from the mid-90s.  It was definitely not that way at Easter this year.  I heard of some who dressed up just to take pictures and feel good in spite of the social distanced situation, but it wasn’t the same.

But what I like about the quote is in the first sentence, how Rev. Swindoll talks about people coming out from under rocks on Easter.  It seems that way when you don’t see them any other time of the year.

I married a woman who likes froufrou, at least the second meaning in the Merriam-Webster dictionary, “Showy or frilly ornamentation.”

My problem was that we never had pennies to rub together and ended up in debt before I got the job that sent me to places like India, Thailand, and China.  Yet, when I went to such places, my wife expected me to return with something.

On my first trip to Thailand, I bought her a ruby ring, natural stone of high quality, not like the manufactured stones that you get in the US, and about 20 carat gold for the band.  My next trip was to India, and I returned with emerald earrings, followed by another trip to Thailand where my host guided me to the non-tourist jeweler.  My wife’s tiger necklace, a small chain and tiny tiger pendant, is almost pure gold, about 23 carat.

When I went to Shanghai, China, she joked about pearls.  One day, the trainees in the class insisted on having an afternoon off to go shopping, being from a remote province.  So, the teachers went sight-seeing, and some almost accidental shopping.  Across from the Yuyuan Gardens is the Yuyuan Bazaar.  I got my wife white, pink, and black pearl earrings, earrings that would go with just about anything.  When she found out how inexpensive they were, she put in her order for the black and white pearl necklace that you see in the photo.  Our elder son has a dark complexion and dark hair, while his younger brother does not tan – just gets pink – and has mousey brown hair (blonde when growing up).  With those differences and their large difference in size (notice that I refer to elder and younger sons, not big and little brothers), many people cannot believe that they are brothers.

My next trip to China went through Beijing.  While at the hotel waiting for the flight home, my boss said that he was going to while the time at the downtown pearl market.  I went along.  If we missed our flight, I was with the boss.  The ladies who sold pearls thought that I was crazy when I ordered the alternating pearls.  I dickered on the price.  Twice, I stood up and walked away.  Then I rejected the pearls that were not round enough to be considered good quality.  I felt I did well in my bargaining.  But when I opened the little bag once they were finished, there was a matching bracelet, ring, and one of those invisible necklaces with white pearls in addition to the necklace that I ordered.  I don’t think I dickered the price down enough, but the extras brought her to tears when I got home.

On subsequent trips to China and the last trip to India, I came home empty handed.  The knock-off shops had gone into hiding in China, preparing for the Olympic games and during the Olympic games.  And I just didn’t want to miss my flight home by taking a taxi to downtown Beijing, at least not without a guide, and by then, I was the guide for others.  It requires a lot of time and patience going from a bowl full of pearls to a finished string.  On my empty-handed trips, I discovered that my wife’s greatest gift was my safe return home.  For one thing, she already had what she wanted, but she had learned the lesson from 1 Peter 3 also.

Most of the pearl earrings have been given away as gifts.  She feels just as froufrou with handmade costume jewelry from the historical markets in New Orleans, LA, Charleston, SC, or St. Augustine, FL.  The only thing that she has from Savannah, GA is a string of beggar beads.

Yet, she is usually disappointed when she dresses up and I hardly notice what she’s wearing in the way of froufrou.  To me, I see the woman within, and the outer adornment is secondary.  Now for her black and white pearl necklace?  That only comes out of the bag for special occasions.  I notice that.  It has caused me to change my necktie, to show equal respect for the special occasion.

In a way, I nearly sold everything, as Jesus’ parable from Matthew says, to get her the string of pearls that she wanted, but to have her grow as a Christian, learning to trust in the Lord. is the greatest gift that I could ever receive.

Soli Deo Gloria.  Only to God be the Glory.

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