The Pearl-Fisher

Posted on July 11, 2015 | 8 comments

Thunder answers thunder in a vaulting discourse above. Not another soul is at the river this day. None but the man with the weathered hands. He strides in with steady purpose, undeterred as the current froths a vortex about him.

His treasure is here, and he won’t leave without it.

Expert eyes dart from mussel to mussel in the Highland shallows where the clamped shells lay. Gathered together, pristine. Waiting to be harvested for pearls within.

He walks right past.

The Pearl Fisher

Deeper in, a jagged dimple on the surface signals rocky peril beneath.  Where most would tread with care, alter course, avoid… he locks in. His eyes flash with recognition as if to say– there. The reason I’ve come.

Arms reach, strong with time and trial, and surface water curls around as he bends low to search. He lifts a rough-hewn stone– but uncovers nothing.

He shifts his stance, lifts another, and another– repeating this search again. And again. No frustration registers on his features, though by now, his own muscles must surely ache against the ceaseless waters.

If anything, his eyes only narrow with building determination, lighting with the fire of a singular quest.

One need only watch him a moment to see: this is everything to him.

The sky is churning now, like the water beneath, but he will not leave. Heedless of the way his hands must scream with the cold, smart with a raw mark crying crimson from his palm, he reaches in again, right where the water leaps as if to push him away. Something has caught his concentration. As he stands slowly, that utter determination shatters clear away and–

Joy. Complete, unbridled joy lights his entire countenance.

He cradles something between those weathered hands.  Opens them ever-so-slightly to behold his treasure:


A solitary mussel. He runs a thumb gently over its scars. Reads a tale from the twist in its shell: the river has not always been kind to it. Cast out and away from the rest of the mussels, it took shelter in that rough terrain to anchor itself away from a world even rougher. He traces a bruise on its side- probably the very place the parasite first entered the shell, keen to live off of it, only to be transformed, moment by moment, in the years that followed.

The man knows, as all pearl-fishers do, just what such markings mean. This mussel, held and seen for the first time in decades…there is treasure within. Priceless treasure sought after by emperors and queens. Living treasure that will be cared for, kept warm in the presence of the envied recipient. Shined luminous–literally–by the company it keeps, for while unattended pearls grow yellow, those held fast against the owner’s heart gleam more every day.

The shell, hiding there in the dark, is what science calls Margaritifera Margaritifera — “bearer of pearls, bearer of pearls”. Once for each shell. Some say the word comes from the Persian word Murwari. Child of the light.

The light deepens in the man’s eyes.

Those weathered hands, they clasp gentle and strong around the sought-after treasure. He breathes deep and the air settles around him– He has found what he came for. His treasure. His beloved.

the pearl-fisher




Many years ago, my Grandma Jean wrote me a beautiful note about pearls. About the transforming ability of the nacre around an invader. She likened them to the trials of this life, and what they can become in the hands of one who can transform. Since that day, pearls have had a special place in my heart, always with a story to tell.

This past winter, in research for a novella, I began to learn about a people with a rich history– the pearl-fishers of centuries past. While the short selection above is fictional, these are the people who braved the river waters in real life as long as it was permitted, and from whose stories I learned so much about my own redeemer, the One who transforms.


In an interview, one of these fishers– a man named Eddie Davies, said:

“In the river, what you look for is an ugly shell. I know which shells will have a pearl as soon as they come out of the water. What I look for is a crooked shell, a deformed shell, bruised-up like on the side, a twisted shell.”


Glory. How my heart skipped a beat when I read that. Is that not the very heart of our God for us? His devoted pursuit of our hearts– the way He treasures and redeems us, bringing beauty for ashes?

For these were the shells– the margaritifera margaritifera– that held the best promise for containing a pearl. Often hidden beneath rocks, and yes- cast away from the others.

Jesus said it better than I ever could– in the parable of the lost sheep. The pearl of great price. In the way he reminded us he came to heal the sick. I’m so thankful for His words, and for the way His creation truly does proclaim His glory.

Now for you and I– each of us battered in a different way by the current of life– what joy, what deep joy, that we are called children of God. That it isn’t our scars that define us, but His redeeming work through them, and in His name for us: children of light.


  1. “I know which shells will have a pearl as soon as they come out of the water…”
    Oh, how I love this!

    How easy it is for us to take those twisted and gnarled pieces of us and allow ourselves to go no deeper than simply despairing at the lot life has given us, in essence. But to take those gnarled parts of us and let God use them to make a pearl. How I adore this word picture – and the reminder that He is always at work in us, isn’t He? Even through the trials. Thank you for this beautiful post, my friend!

    • Well said, my beautifully insightful friend!! He is so good to us, through it all. What a gift, to see the broken places cradled in his treasuring hands. Thank you for your wonderful words!

  2. A post filled with beauty, eloquence, and wrought through soul-searching, I sure – a reminder of our journey with the Lord, and a post much needed this morning!! Thank you so much, dear Amanda!!

    • Bonnie, yours is a life that truly shines, a treasure in every way! Thank you for the encouragement you give, for the way you allow our God to shine through you. You are a gift!

  3. God, always provides encouragement through Amanda Dykes and Joanne Bischof.
    This week I am certainly feeling akin to that bruised and gnarled muscle.
    I’ve been blessed with the pearls of your love of our God, and tucked these beautiful, sweet lessons close to may heart.
    Thank you.

    • Dear and wonderful Melody, I’m so sorry to hear the week has been a rough one! You truly are a treasure, as our great Pearl Fisher knows. Praying for you today!

  4. How very, very beautifully you write, Amanda…your words are a gift to the soul. I guess it’s Him pouring through you. 🙂 That it’s the “ugly shells” that hold the pearls…that is powerful, and challenging, and comforting, all at once. And worth pondering.

    P.S. I also only recently happened upon your post “We Never Had a First Date,” but I loved it so much! What a beautiful picture of a real live love story and marriage…each time I’ve looked it has touched my heart and made me choke up just a little and given me encouragement for what I want my marriage to be. Thank you for how you share your heart and life–bless you, friend!

  5. Kiersti, what a fount of encouragement you are! It’s I who am blessed by your writing, and by the heart behind your words, that beats so faithfully for our God. Thank you for your very kind words… and oh, how excited I am for you and your beloved to begin this new season of life together!