Monday, November 21, 2011

A Taste Test: Bitter to sweet

It was the summer before my 5th grade year. We had just moved to southeast Kansas a couple months ago. It was blazing hot July in our little trailer house that we had just "planted" in the middle of a bean field. (Literally.) I was bored. Which made me hungry. Which made me curious. 

I decided that Mom had to have something interesting to snack on in our pantry or cabinet. I was a short kid (still am at 5' 2") so I enlisted the help of a kitchen chair. I scooted it across the floor and parked it in front of the pantry. I climbed up and peered onto the top shelf... JACKPOT. 

I had discovered something I was not expecting to find... a Country Crock Butter container. I picked it up and shook. It was heavy. I climbed down, excited to see what was hidden in this precious yet odd storage device. I popped open the lid and... 

"Well poo," I thought to myself. I peered into the container to find a grainy white crystal-like substance. "Now why would Mom store sugar hidden on the top shelf in a butter container?" I wondered. My 10 year old mind deduced that it had to be SPECIAL sugar. Being the curious (and hungry) kid I was, I shoved my face in the bowl, stuck out my tongue with anticipation, ready for sweet, sugary goodness to flood my taste buds. 

"Phhhhhsssssssssssssfffffffffffffffttttttttttttt!" I spat out my "treasure" so fast that I swirled backwards and nearly tripped over the kitchen chair. "GAH! WHAT IS THAT STUFF?!?!" 

I found out later that it was not, in fact, some special magical sugar that my Mom was hiding... it was picking salt. 

Talk about a curiosity fail, huh? Apparently there was a REASON why it was hidden... so people wouldn't mistake it for sugar. It was not only a surprise, but it was nasty-- very bitter. (Don't believe me? Try it. I dare you.) 

Sixteen years later, I have learned my lesson not to stick my tongue into an unlabeled Country Crock butter container (not to mention that I have improved my etiquette skills... gross!) However, I have also noticed that I still sometimes approach life situations the same way I did with that pickling salt. 

There are a lot of things in life that can really frustrate a person. I personally try to chill out and lean on Christ when I can... but hey, I am still a sinner. Sometimes I really struggle with bitterness. Let me explain. 

When something (or someone) upsets me, occasionally instead of being slow to anger and quick to forgive, I treat the situation like the pickling salt. I go after it, convinced that my zeal or focus on the other person (or thing) will make me feel sweet inside and satisfy a "need" through revenge or vengeance. "I will show them," I think. 

But here's the thing. I am always surprised when my hope of something sugary turns out to be a nasty, bitter experience that I wasn't expecting. Instead of solving the issue and addressing it right away, I tend to take things into my own hands and allow the negative thoughts to churn in my heart (Thanks a lot, Satan. What a jerk. SIGH.) 

After awhile, I realize there is ZERO, zippo, nada sweetness in my frustration. It tastes bitter. And bitterness does nothing to the other thing/person... I read a quote once that I have since internalized to help me release the bitterness and frustration I might be inclined to harbor: "Being bitter is like drinking a bottle of poison and waiting for the other person (or thing) to die." 

Christ is at work on my heart.  He is making me see things in a different light and telling me to HOLD UP before sticking my tongue into the figurative "butter container" that is that tough situation in my life.  He helps me to step back and think about the consequences of my actions and what it is going to do to ME internally. I don't like the taste of pickling salt on my tongue... and I REALLY don't like the hurting, self-induced feeling of bitterness in my heart. 

Are you harboring any deep bitterness against anyone (or anything) in your life? Do you continue to stick your tongue into the pickling salt with negative results every time? Let go of the anger, resentment and bitterness. It isn't hurting anyone but yourself. Allow the love of Christ to teach you how to turn FIRST to HIM in those situations of trial  and frustration for a bit of a "taste test..." and He will turn that taste from bitter to sweet! 

A new kind of bitter-sweet,

"Get rid of all bitterness, rage and anger, brawling and slander, along with every form of malice. Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you." 
--Ephesians 4:31-32

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