When life hands you lemons … you make lemonade. That’s what people say, people who know things, probably long before lemonade came in a mix. Nowadays, I put lemon in my water, and on my baked fish. I’ve never made lemonade, not ever with real lemons. But the wise saying is meant to impart wisdom. Lemons represent, shall we say, life’s unexpected challenges. So lemons will vary accordingly in number and quality. And the making of lemonade represents an individual’s power to keep a level head. First, you take a realistic assessment of exactly what you’re faced with. Then you pull something good out of a less-than-ideal situation, thus averting a crisis. And you come away victorious, ever confident and fearless after having faced an onslaught of lemons, emerging a lemonade-maker superhero of sorts, ready for even more lemons.
I saw my dentist earlier this week. They took X rays—nothing requiring follow-up visits, did a waterpik cleaning—ouch, polishing, flossing … all done within an hour. And I went ahead and made my next appointment for six months up. But I noticed six months up was 7 November. Jokingly I told the dental hygienist I might have to move to Canada the day after. No reaction. So I told the receptionist the same thing. And she looked at me and squinted, the way people do when they run through their minds that last thing you said. Now why would you move to Canada in six months after getting your teeth cleaned? I explained. The day after I get my teeth cleaned in November, America goes to the polls to elect a new president. Aah. I was trying to make a funny. So we got into a 10-minute discussion about what’s out there, and what we fear could happen, and how bad it can get knowing what we know … yada, yada, yada … and she asked if she might come along. In the end, we just all took a deep breath and decided we would wait and see. It’s a long way to 7 November. Not yet time to make lemonade. Besides, we could just as easily be sipping frozen margaritas on the back porch come 7 November. So I’m hoping life hands us instead such things as peace, justice, prosperity, and leaders who can work together, or at the least, some better quality of lemons.
After Jesus was taken up to heaven, his disciples just stood there for a moment looking up at the sky. Then they noticed two men in white garments standing beside them. “Men of Galilee,” they said to the disciples. “Why are you standing there looking at the sky?” Might they have been hoping Jesus was just kidding? Watch. He’s going to turn around and come back. He isn’t? But if he did, life could go right back to the way it was before. He could reveal to them greater mysteries of the Kingdom of God. He could perform more amazing signs and wonders. He could even face his enemies and prove to them once and for all that he was truly the Son of God, and that he was indeed risen from the dead. If only he turned around and came back. If only he was just kidding. Life could have been so much better than whatever awaited them at home, a life without Jesus their teacher and guide, a life on the run from their enemies, a life of hardships and challenges and yes, lemons. Then it dawned on them. Wishing for a better life than what they eventually had to face was not at all a realistic option. Lightbulb! They had to learn to make lemonade.
The men in white garments who asked Jesus’ disciples that question also assured them he would return. Clearly, that has not happened yet. But as Jesus told them, so he tells us. “It is not for you to know the times or seasons that the Father has established by his own authority.” So clearly, we shouldn’t trust anyone who says they know what only the Father knows. “But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, throughout Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.” That all sounds like hard work—being his witnesses. But they were assured they would receive what they needed for that task—power when the Holy Spirit comes. This is going to be some epic awesome lemonade.
So let’s get to it. What are the lemons life has handed us? What are the hardships and challenges from which we are to pull something good for the Kingdom of God? We look at our own personal limitations—physical, intellectual, emotional shortcomings. Some of them we can overcome. Some, we can get past. But the mission Jesus entrusted to us and to his church is what determines whether or not these shortcomings are even a hindrance. “You will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, throughout Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.” We are to be witnesses of Jesus, who came to reveal the Father. So following Jesus’ example, we are witnesses of Jesus, who is God’s mercy and compassion, by our words, our convictions, and our way of life.
Our physical stature or appearance need not be a hindrance to the mission. We can be witnesses of Jesus whether we are short or tall, regardless of whether or not we can play a sport or a musical instrument, whatever language we speak, whether or not we can sing and dance, whatever our abilities or disabilities. No lemons there.
Our intellectual and emotional aptitudes, however, might present an obstacle. So we first need to know our own selves. If we have the gifts and talents to discover and comprehend the depths of the life of God that we might draw others themselves to discover and comprehend the same, then by all means, we should pursue academic learning and advanced training in the arts and sciences. If we do not have such gifts and talents, we should direct our efforts elsewhere. You can’t make lemonade out of bricks, no matter how hard you try. So despite what we have always told our children, we can’t all be president. We can’t all be pope. If our gifts and talents lie elsewhere, we need to pay closer attention and listen for direction from the Holy Spirit. And if our tenacious pursuit of anything gets in the way of our being effective witnesses of Jesus, then we have become ourselves a hindrance to the mission Jesus entrusted to us. You can only make lemonade if you have lemons, but not likely if you are the lemon.
And then there are the lemons life hands us that we don’t get to pick, limitations in other people, in our circumstances, and in our environment. Those are the lemons that often convince people to consider moving to Canada or some other place. But those who take that option soon discover that life will be handing them other lemons. It’s all a matter of which lemons they would much rather have. And if we choose to leave the lemons alone by ignoring them, and closing our eyes, and complaining unceasingly, and rejecting everything, we don’t make very effective witnesses to Jesus at all.
So maybe you don’t like your government or your church very much, or your pastor, or the building plans, or the capital campaign. You can insist on standing there looking at the sky, hoping for things to be different. Or you can take the lemons and make some lemonade. We are sent to be Jesus’ witnesses … with a glass of lemonade in hand.
Rolo B Castillo © 2016