‘The Princess and The Pea’ is an odd story isn’t it! I’m not surprised that it has never gone feature-length! From what I can remember – a prince is in search of a princess. His mother insists that she must be the genuine article – but how to tell? Well apparently by putting a pea under her mattress – correction – mattresses! If she sleeps like a log she is clearly not the delicate, easily bruised and rarely rested specimen of womanhood that they are searching for, BUT if the poor lady has tossed and turned all night and emerges black and blue – she is the one!
In a recent post – ‘Project Space: Who holds the Keys?’ – I explored the possibility of the purpose of a church, its heartbeat, getting buried under layer upon layer of culture and as I wrote it ‘The Princess and the Pea’ came to mind.
Imagine the pea – once so central to the plot – gradually disappearing from the story. Imagine all those mattresses – mere incidentals to start with – taking over as the focal point of the story. One mattress has been donated by a certain prominent family and must be appropriately admired. Another is the oldest surviving mattress in the area and must be carefully preserved.
Thankfully it is exempt from health and safety restrictions!
Yet another is a classic example of mattress making from a certain era nd appears in several books on the subject. Others are quite simply loved for their comfort and familiarity.
To come to the castle is to come to the mattresses! (No Godfather reference intended.) When someone comes along who enjoys the mattresses they are welcomed with open arms. However, whenever someone tries to draw attention to that lumpy pea – well that’s just a bit embarrassing.
Clearly something has gone badly wrong along the way! What hope has that prince got of finding his princess?
A sure hope!
Praise God – for he came to seek and save the lost. His true children will always discern that tiny pea sized lump no matter how deeply it is hidden or how ashamed people are of its presence.
By God’s grace that ‘pea’ still does its work on those he is calling. Their consciences become tender and they are made to feel blessedly uncomfortable with their sin. They toss and turn and finally, unable to slumber any longer, they come to their senses and tear off first the bedding and then the mattresses, one by one, in a desperate bid to remove themselves of this annoyance. Imagine their great joy and delight when, to their surprise, and by God’s lavish grace they find not a stone, or a thorn, not even a pea – but a pea-rl, THE pearl, the pearl of great price.
Of course some will be horrified – those poor mattresses! Some, but not all.
Imagine the excitement of those who have remembered the pea and its purpose. Imagine their trepidation as they ask their friend how they slept. Imagine their relief and joy when the friend replies: “What a dreadful night sleep I have had – but no matter – see what I have found! What is one night of discomfort in the light of eternity in possession of this treasure?”
Dear saving, calling, awakening Father, thank you that your gospel is “the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes”. Lord I confess that your people in this land have buried it deep, we have hidden its light. Lord please bring us to repentance. Please open our eyes to the state of the church. We know something is wrong, but we merely wrap ourselves more tightly in our cultural duvets hoping it will all go back to how it was. Please bring glory to your name, please equip those who want to put the good news about Jesus back in its rightful place – central to the joy and purpose of the church. Your church. In Jesus’ precious name, Amen.