Last week, to start our (virtual) staff meeting off, Pastor Pete shared with us a story. Taken from a book of modern-day parables, it tells of a little girl who comes to her grandparents’ house at lunchtime on a school day, all worked up because some neighborhood boys have been throwing snowballs at her, making her cold and wet.
The grandparents usher her in, of course, feed her a warm lunch and take her mind off of it all – in addition to drying out her wet coat and gloves. And an hour or so later, when she’s bundling up to return to school, the little girl remarks how lucky it was, after all, that those boys threw snowballs at her – because without them, she wouldn’t have ended up here, for such a lovely respite from the day.
It’s a sweet story, and one that reminded us in the meeting of all the ways that God can redeem a bad situation – make lemonade out of lemons, so to speak.
And I love that, and agree with that, but as we reflected on the story, another point was also made which I’ve been thinking about all week.
Sometimes, life just gives us lemons:
Pandemics. Job losses. Rifts in families. Cancer. Mental illness.
And one day, probably a good distance from now, we might be able to look back and see God’s providence even in those times, or to discern how God redeemed the bad. We might even, sometimes, be able as we are suffering to make good out of bad, to take those lemons and make some really good lemonade.
It’s also okay if, right now, in the middle of the bad stuff, we don’t rush to make meaning out of it or find a silver lining, but we just see lemons. No lemonade – just lemons.
I’ve been thinking about that a lot lately.
Sometimes, in the midst of this pandemic, I can see real and meaningful silver linings: fewer nights away from home, more meaningful conversations with people when we do connect over the phone or on a walk. I’ve explored my neighborhood in ways I hadn’t before, and made my home a more comfortable and happy place to be.
Those are all pretty great forms of lemonade.
But sometimes, darn it, I just miss life before COVID. I want to have a dinner party, or go to the movies with friends; I want to have someone over to bake Christmas cookies with me, or see the sanctuary filled with people and greet them with hugs.
What I’m starting to realize is…it’s okay to take some time and just grieve all of this. Lament for what has been lost forever, and for what is just lost right now.
It’s okay if I can’t make lemonade out of my lemons just this moment. It’s okay if you can’t, either.
And, if I might be so bold as to say it, I don’t think that’s our call as Christians either.
We are called to be people of hope, yes, but hope doesn’t mean relentless positivity that turns a blind eye to our own sufferings or those of others. Hope means looking at all of those hard, bad things face on and saying “yes….and.” Yes, those are real…and they will not last forever. Yes, those are causing some serious hurt right now….and God is still on the move. Yes, weeping will last for a night…and joy will still come in the morning.
I think our call as Christians in times of suffering, times like these, is to trust that God is still, somewhere, at work. Advent is in some ways the perfect time to think about that: a season predicated on the promise that God is always coming toward us.
So it’s okay if you can make some lemonade out of your lemons right now.
And it’s equally okay if you can’t. If they are just lemons. If you need more time, and distance, and healing before you can make meaning out of or see blessing in the hardship.
Either way, it is okay.
God is still with us, with you. God is still coming, and healing, and redeeming, and making all things new.
We don’t have to see it right now, to trust that it will one day be so.