This is the time of year when cucumbers turn into pickles, when the sweltering stagnant blanket of heat finally gives way to cool breezes of relief, and the garden surrenders its bounty to rest and recover. The calendar may not officially pronounce fall, but it surely feels like it each September. I live near a school so the quiet mornings once again fill with early traffic noise off in the distance and the playful sounds of children as it seems the whole world returns to work and study.
But we have changed this past year and a half. Kids are wearing masks as they resume their day to day routines together, while community groups debate the safest way to meet again. Services are cut and prices soar as demand resumes. Workers are in short supply. Some businesses have completely disappeared. We do not interact as we once did not so very long ago. Almost everything is very different.
We suddenly realize we had a real fondness for our old ways. Some of us might even say, “Welcome to aging.” It’s a good metaphor. But longing for the past can swallow up the present. It can keep us from switching our mindset from negative to positive. It can be a pit if we are not mindful of its dangers.
Do you know this story? A young girl told her father how frustrated she was with her life. Whenever she solved a problem, another one soon popped up, she explained. Her father, a chef, without saying a word, set three pots of water to boil. In the first pot, he dropped a potato, in the second, an egg, and a small handful of coffee beans into the last. He then left them for a short time.
When they had cooled slightly, the man asked his daughter to describe what had happened in each pot. She removed the potato from pot number one to see that it fell apart and could easily be mashed as she examined it. Carefully removing the egg from the water with a spoon, she found it firm and easy to peel. Lastly she poured the brown water off the beans noting the pleasant coffee aroma.
“Each endured the same process, My Dear,” her dad said. “However they each came out differently than when they went in. The hard potato became something soft and pliable. The delicate and fragile egg became firm and solid. And, the coffee beans morphed into something totally different. Each transformed as they went through the same adversity, the boiling water, into something more useful than they were in their original state. Although much altered, do you think the adversity was worth it?” he asked.
Genesis 41 & 47
Following seven years of abundance, now Egyptians and the surrounding populations were starving to death. People were desperate. Initially they went to Joseph with their money to buy food but later they even bartered with their livestock. Ultimately they willingly sold their land to Pharaoh and became his slaves. But Joseph, as administrator, was fair to everyone. He did not take advantage of their hopelessness. All were suffering the same famine but God had groomed Joseph through all of his own adversities, to rescue the masses. Joseph, who had been hated and sold by his brothers, had been falsely accused and imprisoned, was now, years later, the only person who could save the people including his own family.
The truth is adversity shapes us. It molds our character either positively or negatively depending on how we allow it to. We decide. We all moved through the past year and a half with difficulty, and some with way more than others, just as we do through our lives. If you were a hard potato may you have become softer, more kind and understanding. If you were a fragile egg, may you have become strong, more able to endure and resist. If you were coffee beans, not very useful in your former state, may you now have become a totally new person full of loving care and concern. Embrace the changes.
Troubles of all kinds come in every lifetime. There is little we can do about that. Yet, we can chose how we respond. We can become something better.