‘This person brings out the worst in me. How can I possibly love them?’ Isn’t it easy to love and get along with people who love us back and are simply easy to love, because they don’t have any annoying habits or make us feel bad about ourselves? However, how we treat others when we’re going through hard times and our general outlook when dealing with difficult circumstances is a true reflection of who we are and what we place our securities in. Apart from God, when the storm hits, we have nothing to cling to.
A popular story tells of a girl, frustrated at all the problems in her life, coming to her mother for advice. Her mother leads her into the kitchen to heat up a pot of water. She finds three ordinary kitchen ingredients – a carrot, an egg, and coffee beans. Each of these she places into the boiling water. ‘The carrot went in strong, hard, and unrelenting. However, after being subjected to the boiling water, it softened and became weak. The egg had been fragile. Its thin outer shell had protected its liquid interior. But, after being through the boiling water, its inside became hardened. The ground coffee beans were unique, however. After they were in the boiling water they had changed the water.’
It was all the same boiling pot of water. One pot. One temperature. Same circumstances. We can’t control our circumstances – these ingredients obviously could not have asked not to be put into the water. We never know when or where we’ll be tested, but we can know for sure adversity will come. That is one of the only guarantees in life, besides death. What we can control, however, is our mentality and how that manifests in our outer being and actions.
The carrot couldn’t take the heat, coming out of it limp, exhausted, and would not be able to face another boiling pot of water without becoming even mushier. The hardness of carrot personality types before entering the water suggests they have a false impression that they are tough and able to take anything. They don’t know their own true weakness until adversity hits, when it’s too late. The egg has the opposite problem of the carrot, as the egg is able to be vulnerable and fluid prior to being boiled. However, after emerging from the boiling water, it becomes hardened. Egg personality types become cynical and disillusioned after adversity, refusing to ever be caught weak in such a situation again.
The coffee beans tell a different story though. Coffee beans, even dry, have a certain aroma to them. I think that’s why people smell them in between smelling different colognes and perfumes. Before any real trouble hits, people with coffee bean personality types already exude a certain fragrance – for we are the aroma of Christ to God among those who are being saved and among those who are perishing [2 Corinthians 2:15]. However, their true colors show most when placed into boiling water, as all their flavor, all their strengths are finally released. Rather than allowing the water to change them, they change the water. They turn a potentially bad situation into something new.
The longer the egg sits in the water, the harder it becomes inside. Same goes for the carrots – the longer they sit, they more they soften and wilt and refuse to hold their shape. Some may even call the carrots spineless, unable to stand up for something, instead bending to the will of the hot water. But for coffee, the longer the beans sit in the water, the more their flavor infuses into the water. The beans are able to withstand being in the heat longer because the water actually brings out all the good (flavors) in the beans.
So who do we want to be? Do we want to be an egg, initially open and vulnerable but with hardened hearts when life doesn’t go our way? Do we want to be a carrot, unable to see our true weakness until after life hits? Or do we want to be the coffee beans, changing the world around us and refusing to let adversity quench the light that is within us? What we think about God changes our perspective more than it does when we think about ourselves. Things in life can take away everything we have, but they can never take away the only true inalienable freedom we have – our attitude.
Everyone then who hears these words of mine and does them will be like a wise man who built his house on the rock. And the rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and beat on that house, but it did not fall, because it had been founded on the rock. And everyone who hears these words of mine and does not do them will be like a foolish man who built his house on the sand. And the rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and beat against that house, and it fell, and great was the fall of it. [Matthew 7:24-27]