“What is all this juice and all this joy?/ A strain of the earth’s sweet being in the beginning…” –from "Spring" by Gerard Manley Hopkins
The problem with the saying about lemonade is that it might work easily on things like fruit or favorite shrunken sweaters, but people wish to apply the principle to bigger things in life. That’s because the idea of turning loss or disappointment into something lovely and useful is a compelling one. This is what we are supposed to be doing. It is one of the things that makes us recognizable as having been made in God’s image.
The story of Joseph comes to mind. His brothers sold him into slavery! But through Joseph’s character growth, his wisdom and his humble forgiveness of his brothers, God saved the entire family from the ravages of a famine. This has been what I have known God to do in my own life.
And that’s part of the problem with this saying about making lemonade. Lemons are great, really. That’s why they don’t really work as a metaphor for being sold into slavery. The brightest of flavors, they’re great in iced tea, in tarts, in cookies, in cake and to add zing to hummus, chicken or fish. Lemon juice is useful for keeping fruit from darkening, for bleaching out the scent of stale garlic. There’s nothing inherently wrong with lemons.
I can think of many situations where “lemons fit for lemonade” would provide the perfect metaphor. These are situations not inherently wrong, but come with a bitter taste. It’s hard to make the best of a difficult or frustrating situation. We live through many of these and the goal is not only to survive the difficulty, but to grow in character and understanding.
How do we make something useful and lovely and refreshing from profound loss and bitter disappointment? How do we quench throats dry from weeping? “Making lemonade” out of this sort of “lemon” takes time, grace and work.
My mother’s death traumatized me for many reasons but one thing that was especially hard on me was the memory of how she looked when she had died. I wept over it in a frantic, inconsolable way. My mother-in-law, who rarely gives advice, wrote me a note which I received a few days after the funeral and at the bottom was written this recommendation: “It helps to remember the good things.” I figured this was true and wise, but I couldn’t come up with anything good. Not one thing.
Do you have examples of when you made something useful, beautiful and refreshing from loss and disappointment? Whether it’s something light – like my sweater, something lovely – like my imagined vacation, or something life-changing - like my mother’s memory write and tell about it.