A couple nights a week, I work the night shift at my job. My sister works like, 4th shift, if there is even such a thing. She goes into work somewhere around 5 am, and I get off work at 8 am. What’s marvelous about the whole thing is my sister works at Starbucks about a mile down the road from where I work. Boom. Free coffee for the win!
Except there’s a problem: I hate coffee. I don’t say this as one who has merely sipped a dark roast and turned up my nose. I have attempted to love coffee in all of its forms. I’ve tried it with and without cream, with soy milk, skim milk, on ice, decaffeinated, no whip, light whip, lots of whip. But no. Despite every cell in my body desperately wanting to savor its taste, my taste buds simply will not allow it. I even bought that cool, earth-friendly, reusable cup that they sell, and I’m currently sipping some H2O from it.
To me, coffee is like vanilla extract. I know I’m not the only child to ever pick up a bottle of vanilla for cooking purposes, become intrigued by its scent and then have a taste only to be fiercely disappointed by its bitter, repulsive taste. For me, the same is true of coffee. How can something that smells so good taste so wretched?
But none of that is really the main point of my post. I’m just distracting myself from getting down to business 1. Because it’s Friday, so naturally I’m in ADHD mode with a very limited attention span for anything that is n- – oh my gosh, did I put on deodorant this morning? Oh okay, I did. And 2. It’s sort of difficult for me to be candid and admit to my readers, some of which I do know and some of which I don’t, that life has been pretty crappy lately. But I feel led to honesty. I feel led to tell you that for reasons unknown to me at this time, this has been a season of life in which the Lord is having me walk through some very difficult circumstances. It’s been a very long season, and it’s been hard. Hard to wake up each day with a resolve to be joyful in hope. Hard to trust in the perfect leadership of an invisible God to guide me through life’s storms. Hard to force a grin and say, “I’m good” each time I’m faced with the dreaded question of, “how are you!?” It’s with an unsteady posture that I lean on Him for every ounce of sustainment. It’s with wandering eyes that I look to Him for guidance. And it is with a shaken trust that I seek His presence.
As I scan through the Bible, desperately looking to find comfort in His promises or read a familiar verse of hope, I find this instead:
“But thanks be to God, who in Christ always leads us in triumphal procession, and through us spreads the fragrance of the knowledge of him everywhere. For we are the aroma of Christ to God among those who are being saved and among those who are perishing, to one a fragrance from death to death, to the other a fragrance from life to life.”
And I think of the coffee shop. No matter how one feels about the taste of coffee, there is no denying that its smell is sweet. Its fragrance fills the entire place and no one can complain because its smell is so soft, comforting and lovely. But the smell of coffee isn’t a result of the beans themselves. Pick up a bag of coffee beans and you’ll know – you have to press your nose to the bag and take a deep breath in to catch the scent. The enveloping scent of coffee in a room doesn’t take effect until it’s been brewed. And coffee can’t be brewed until the beans have been crushed.
I think the same is true of people. Like coffee beans, before we can be fragrant, we must first be crushed. It’s one of those awesome Kingdom paradoxes that I don’t think we will ever fully understand on this side of Heaven. But I’m learning. This pain, this uncertainty, this sort of ‘crushing’ of my spirit if you will, is all preparing me to be a “fragrance of the knowledge of Christ.” And I think that is pretty cool.
Empty words, broken relationships, shattered plans; they all lead to me to a place of knowing that dependence on Christ is all I have left, so on Him I will continue to lean. And if being an aroma of Christ is the end result of it all, I will walk through the hardships, trusting that it’s in the same grace that He allowed His own Son to be crushed for our sake that He allows me to be crushed for His. I pray that He would refine me through it. I find hope in knowing I don’t walk alone. I know I’m not the only one walking through difficulty. So can I just tell you what I tell myself day after day? As life is hard and continues to get harder, in the especially dark days, when it doesn’t feel right and when it doesn’t seem fair: He is enough. He will be enough.
It is with determination that I resolve to “consider it joy…”
God is good in the sun. He is greater in the shade.